Asean militaries commit to peace, security in South China Sea
Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - March 12, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero and nine other chiefs of defense forces from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have reaffirmed their commitment to the “importance of maintaining and promoting peace and security in the South China Sea.”

In a joint statement issued after the ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces Informal Meeting (ACDFIM) last March 8 in Singapore. Top military heads also recognized the need for cautious actions in the disputed region.

“(We are) reaffirming the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety, and freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea, as well as the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may complicate the situation,” the statement said.

According to the AFP, the statement also stressed the importance of pursuing a peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law.

The ACDFIM serves as the biggest avenue for interaction among heads of militaries from ASEAN member  states where regional issues such as terrorism, sea disputes, and disaster preparedness and response, among others, are discussed. 

The AFP said the heads of defense forces likewise noted the framework “Resilience, Response, Recovery” as a means to build up regional capability to deter and prevent terrorist attacks as well as in coordinating “ASEAN’s responses to address ongoing threats and recover from any terrorist attacks.”

In terms of humanitarian assistance and disaster response, the military chiefs agreed to work on the “operationalization of mechanisms to enhance ASEAN responses to natural disasters, such as the ASEAN Military Ready Group (AMRG) on high availability disaster recovery based on principles of sovereignty and consensus-based decision-making.”

The AFP said the AMRG aims to prepare an ASEAN quick response team for immediate coordinated deployment to ASEAN countries and areas affected by disasters.

Prior to ACDFIM, the ASEAN Military Intelligence Informal Meeting and the ASEAN Military Operations Informal Meeting were also held last March 6 and the results of the same served as a pretext for discussions in the ACDFIM.

The AFP said it is reiterating its commitment to regional military cooperation and to building stronger partnerships in order to effectively and widely deal with common issues that need cooperative actions.

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