ASEAN vows to work towards drug-free region
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - September 8, 2016 - 5:02pm
VIENTIANE, Laos – Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to work together for a drug-free region and reaffirmed their commitment to fight terrorism and other security threats.
 
In the chairman’s statement for the 28th and 29th ASEAN summits, the leaders cited previous meetings in Malaysia, Austria and United States that tackled the narcotics problem in the region.
 
“The statements reaffirmed ASEAN's joint commitment to a zero-tolerance approach in realizing the regional vision of a drug-free ASEAN,” the statement read.
 
Philippine officials previously said President Rodrigo Duterte would push for a drug-free ASEAN during the conference, his first international engagement since he assumed office on June 30.
 
The ASEAN leaders also vowed to strengthen cooperation on information sharing and intelligence exchange among drug control and law enforcement agencies in the region.
 
Members of the regional bloc are also looking forward to adopting an ASEAN Plan of Action in Combating Transnational Crime in 10 priority areas: Terrorism, illicit drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms smuggling and sea piracy, money laundering, international economic crime, cybercrime, wildlife and timber trafficking.
 
“We reaffirmed our commitment to respond to the threats posed by transnational crimes and emerging transboundary challenges in an effective and timely manner,” the ASEAN leaders said.

Rule of law in maritime disputes

Leaders of the regional bloc likewise stressed the need to uphold the rule of law in solving maritime disputes.
 
“We reaffirmed our shared commitment to maintaining and promoting peace, security and stability in the region, as well as to the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” they said.
 
Four ASEAN members -- the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei -- have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, where about $5 trillion in trade passes through every year.
 
China claims historic rights over about 90 percent of the resource-rich area and favors bilateral talks to resolve the disputes. Taiwan, another claimant, supports multilateral negotiations to settle the maritime row.
 
“We welcomed cooperation and constructive dialogues on maritime issues of common interests and concerns including search and rescue, maritime capacity-building, crimes at sea, maritime scientific research, maritime security and safety, conservation of marine living resources and combating piracy and Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” the ASEAN chairman’s statement read.  
 
ASEAN also adopted nine documents during the three-day summit namely the One ASEAN, One Response declaration on disasters; declarations on the adoption of the initiative for ASEAN Integration Work Plan, master plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025,  decent work promotion, reinforcing cultural heritage cooperation and strengthening education for out-of-school children and youth; joint statements on biodiversity conservation and climate change, and a declaration of commitment on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which highlights a commitment to end the epidemic by 2030.
 
The leaders also cited the need to achieve the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which emphasize inclusive and people-centered community.
 
They also committed to strengthen economic ties and improve business environment including facilitating investment and increasing transparency in the region.

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