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Leaders united in curtailing terror

ASEAN leaders led by President Duterte and dialogue partners link arms at the start of the 12th East Asia Summit at the PICC yesterday. State Secretary Rex Tillerson (fifth from left) attended for US President Donald Trump who left the country ahead of the summit. Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the US have vowed to fight terrorism and violent extremism.

“We are committed to curtailing the threat of terrorism and violent extremism through information sharing and law enforcement cooperation,” said the joint statement of the ASEAN-US Commemorative Summit.

The world leaders have agreed on law enforcement cooperation among countries to include the Southeast Asia Aviation and Border Security program and strengthening of data exchange with Interpol.

The ASEAN and the US have also committed to the full and effective implementation of the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. 

The regional bloc and the US are also cooperating on cyber security and combating trafficking in drugs.

The Philippines and the US, on the other hand, committed to enhance their counterterrorism cooperation through conducting additional exercises, increasing information sharing and addressing the drivers of conflict and extremism.

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ASEAN had reaffirmed their commitment to fight Islamic State (IS) militants and prevent them from gaining a foothold in the region.

The regional bloc took note of the crisis in Marawi City where the IS-linked Maute group attacked and laid siege in the Islamic city in the bid to establish a caliphate in the Southeast Asian region.

More than a thousand people were killed and tens of thousands were wounded and left homeless.

The attack in Marawi City heightened concern over IS links in Southeast Asia with the risk posed to the region by violent extremist organizations like the Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf.

Former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo cited the success story of the ASEAN.

She said the ASEAN, since its founding 50 years ago, has emerged as a global power in combating terrorism.

“Though made up of small nations, ASEAN commands respect because we know how to advance and sacrifice for the common interest. And that may well catapult ASEAN to global leadership among the panoply of nations far below the gaze of big power giants. But for us to succeed in that in 50 years, we first need to achieve full integration by 2025,” Arroyo told the ASEAN business and investment summit at Solaire Hotel in Parañaque City.

Arroyo said ASEAN has grown from five to 10 nations that kept the peace, expanded economies and have drawn closer together through trade, diplomacy, cultural exchange and greater connectivity in the region. 

Arroyo recalled how ASEAN member states strongly lobbied for the resolution of the 1980s conflict in Cambodia – not yet a member of the regional grouping at the time – which later led to peace.

Arroyo said the integration process must not leave any member or a segment of the region’s 650-million population at a disadvantage as this could prompt the undertaking of alternative, often isolationist, and sometimes extremist and violent ideologies.

“For open economies and free enterprise to win, everyone must win,” she said.

Arroyo said integration provides for more foreign investments. As the sixth largest economy in the world and the world’s fourth largest trader, the ASEAN community stands to attract enterprises from within and outside.

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