CLARK FREEPORT ZONE, Pampanga — Defense ministers of Association of South East Asian Nations member states signed joint declaration emphasizing its renewed partnership and cooperation for maritime security particularly on the South China Sea. At the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting, they also promote the establishment of ASEAN Center for Military Medicine, strengthening the campaign on combating terrorism and utilize ASEAN military assets and capacities to disaster response.
Maintaining Freedom of Navigation and Over-Flight
Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana leads the signing of the said joint declaration. ASEAN defense ministers reaffirmed the valuing the peace, security, and stability in the South China Sea by respecting freedom of navigation and over-flight. It aims to avoid actions and confrontations that may complicate the situation. They also agreed that all member-states of ASEAN shall recognize the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).
Synergy approach on counter-terrorism
ASEAN countries ‘police themselves’ by urging its other to observe self-restraint in the conduct of all kinds of activities in the West Philippine Sea to that the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). This will pave the way to expedite the drafting and adoption of the proposed Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
While ASEAN member-state has made a clear stand on the issue of the South China Sea, as said by Secretary Lorenzana in his opening remarks in this ADMM, ASEAN military is now focused on helping each other in the region tremendously. Defense ministers are set to fully implement ASEAN Comprehensive Plan of Action on Counter-Terrorism. They initiated a synergy approach to strengthen combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
An immediate result of this is the condemnation by the ASEAN Defense ministers to the attacked made by ISIS backed-Maute group in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur and committed to fully support the Philippine government to address the security and humanitarian situation. They also pledged to further enhanced regional cooperation on intelligence, information sharing, massive surveillance and call the awareness of ASEAN public about the threat of terrorism, radicalism, and violent extremism.
One ASEAN, One Response
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff General Eduardo Ano successfully included his initiative on having an ASEAN Stand-by Force. ASEAN defense ministers agreed to facilitate and utilize the military assets of respective member states including its capacities by operationalizing the ASEAN Militaries Ready Group. This will give a boost not only in counter-terrorism but also in joint-ASEAN disaster response.
ASEAN Center of Military Medicine
In connection to ASEAN Declaration on One ASEAN One Response initiative, defense ministers are promoting the newly established ASEAN Center of Military Medicine which currently based in Thailand. It is served as a practical, effective and sustainable among military medical services both in normal and crisis situations.
Meanwhile, ASEAN Joint Declaration promotes intra-ASEAN trade on defense products and services. For Secretary Lorenzana, this is a huge opportunity to the current modernization program being continued by the Duterte administration. In 2012, Philippine Navy bought its two largest ships in Indonesia, the Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Tarlac which commissioned on June 1, 2016, and the BRP Davao del Sur in 2017. In 2003, Malaysian Air Force donated one of its C-130 Cargo plane to the Philippine Air Force while Thailand also gives eight of its OV-10 Broncos bombers in 2003 and 2004.