22 November 2015

President Aquino welcomes closer ties between ASEAN and New Zealand
(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) President Aquino on Sunday welcomed the closer relationship between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the New Zealand during the 40th ASEAN-New Zealand Commemorative Summit at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre Conference Hall here.

In his intervention speech, the President said the elevation of ASEAN’s partnership with New Zealand from comprehensive to strategic level would serve the immediate and long-term interests of both ASEAN and New Zealand.

“In solidarity with fellow ASEAN Member States, the Philippines welcomes the Joint ASEAN-New Zealand Leaders’ Statement on the 40th Anniversary of the ASEAN-New Zealand Dialogue Relations, including the Plan of Action to Implement the ASEAN-New Zealand Strategic Partnership 2016-2020 that we will adopt today. This takes on even deeper significance, given our pursuit of ASEAN Community Vision 2025.

With our continuing solidarity, I believe we can further build on the foundations of inclusiveness, stability, prosperity, and resilience that we have so far established,” the President said. The Chief Executive said the enduring support of New Zealand to the ASEAN is similar to the warm welcome he received during a state visit three years ago.

“I remember quite clearly my own State Visit to New Zealand in 2012, when I was accorded a warm welcome that made the somewhat cold weather much more bearable. This is a warmth that I believe New Zealand has extended to the entire ASEAN community over the 40 years of our Dialogue Relations,” said the President.

“Whether in agricultural diplomacy, scholarship programs, the Young Business Leaders’ Initiative, disaster risk management, or other areas of mutual interest, ASEAN and New Zealand have nurtured broad-ranging cooperation and partnership. New Zealand’s commitment to continue these initiatives signals the enduring importance of our relations,” he added.

President Aquino said the upgraded partnership will boost trade and investment,“ We note in particular the yields of our efforts to ensure a progressive, business-friendly trade and investment regime between ASEAN and New Zealand: total trade expanded from 9.8 billion dollars in 2013, to 10.7 billion dollars in 2014,” the President said.

“With my own country’s ratification of the First Protocol to Amend the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement last May, I am confident that our economic engagement can only go from strength to strength,” said the President.

As strategic partners, New Zealand will increase its investment into the ASEAN region to more than $200 million over the next three years. New Zealand and the ASEAN will focus their cooperation on two key strategies: people and prosperity.

The people strategy will build opportunities for training and exchanges and greater people flow of people in both directions, with focus on youth, especially current and future leaders.

Prosperity strategy will support ASEAN and New Zealand’s economic engagement, achieve common regional integration objectives and support ASEAN’s drive to close the development gap and with focus on New Zealand’s expertise in agriculture and trade.

“This year, we celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations with ASEAN, a key regional partner,” said New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in a statement.

“The region – home to 625 million people and with GDP expected to grow to US$5.2 trillion by 2030 – presents significant opportunities for New Zealand and in recent years, we have seen strong growth in the trade,” the Prime Minister said.

New Zealand’s development assistance program in the ASEAN region will be the second-largest after the Pacific.

“The funding will focus on building the capability of the region’s people and creating links between our young leaders and emerging
entrepreneurs – the people who will build on the ties we have forged in the past 40 years,” said Prime Minister Key.

“We will also expand trade and economic cooperation and capacity-building efforts, focusing on New Zealand’s trade and agricultural expertise,” said Prime Minister Key, adding “we will increase our efforts to help to improve the ability of ASEAN member states to respond to natural disasters”. PND (jm)

US reiterates call to stop reclamation activities in South China Sea
(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) President Barack Obama urged on all claimants to stop reclamation activities in the South China Sea (SCS). Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on Sunday said President Obama made the call during the 3rd ASEAN-US Summit on the sidelines of the 27th ASEAN-Summit at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre Conference Hall.

“He reiterated the call he made in Manila earlier this week for all claimants to halt all land reclamation activities in the SCS,” said Coloma in a statement issued to the Philippine media.

Coloma said the US leader described the Philippines’ decision to bring its case to the international arbitral tribunal as “an appropriate approach”.

“He also acknowledged the action taken by the Philippines to present its position before the arbitral tribunal in The Hague as an appropriate approach, expressing the view that the decision of the tribunal must be respected by all concerned,” Coloma added.

In a joint statement issued at the end of the ASEAN-US Summit on Saturday night, the US and ASEAN leaders stressed the importance of maintaining peace and stability, ensuring maritime security and safety, and freedom of navigation including on and over-flight above the South China Sea.

“We reaffirm the collective commitments contained in the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the SCS (DOC) to ensure the resolution of disputes by peaceful means in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 Unclos, and the relevant regulations, standards and recommended practices of the International Maritime Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization without resorting to the threat or use of force while exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities,” the statement further said.

The ASEAN and US also expressed their support on the ongoing efforts of Asean and China to fully and effectively implement the DOC in its entirety, and to work toward the expeditious conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct (COC), the statement further said.

In his opening remarks, President Obama said the ASEAN plays a vital role in advancing a rules-based order for the Asia-Pacific.

“I commend ASEAN for working to ensure that all nations uphold international law and norms, including the peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight,” said Obama. “I applaud ASEAN for working to create a code of conduct for the South China Sea. And for the sake of regional stability, claimants should halt reclamation, new construction and militarization of disputed areas.”

The US leader said the US has deepened its ties with the ASEAN “because a united, integrated and effective ASEAN in the center of Asia is a force of stability, prosperity and peace.”

“I am pleased that we are elevating our relationship to a new level – a strategic partnership to guide and strengthen our ties for decades to come, including maritime cooperation. The United States and ASEAN will be closer than ever,” said President Obama, who is attending his sixth meeting with the ASEAN.

Obama also welcomed the formation of the ASEAN Community, which he said “is another major step toward integrating economies and greater regional stability”. Citing Malaysian Prime Minister and ASEAN Summit Chairman Najib Razak, President Obama said the US is already a major investor in ASEAN. “We do an enormous amount of trade. You will continue to have the support and partnership of the United States.”

Other areas of engagement outlined in the new ASEAN-US Strategic Partnership are confronting climate change, countering violent extremism and terrorists as well as educational and scientific exchanges. PND (jm)

President Aquino joined ASEAN Leaders in signing Kuala Lumpur Declaration
(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) President Benigno S. Aquino III on Sunday joined his regional counterparts in signing the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Community which will be launched on December 31.

The declaration of the establishment of the ASEAN Community is one of the highlights of the 27th ASEAN Summit held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

Other leaders who signed the declaration were Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, Laos Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Myanmar President Thein Sein, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan O-Cha and Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

The 10 leaders also signed the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together. This is the region’s post-2015 vision which charts the direction of the ASEAN Community in the next 10 years.

The signed documents were then presented to ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh of Vietnam.

The ASEAN Community is the realization of the vision of the ASEAN leaders for the regional grouping to build and achieve community status by 2015.

By issuing the declaration, the ASEAN leaders reaffirmed commitment to the ASEAN Charter, which reflects our desire and collective will to live in a region of lasting peace, security and stability, sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and social progress. They also noted the significance of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and other key ASEAN instruments in maintaining a peaceful and stable region, which contributes to ASEAN Community building.

The leaders also recognized the efforts and significant achievements in the implementation of the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community (2009-2015) comprising the ASEAN Political-Security Community, the ASEAN Economic Community and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprints, as well as the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan II and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity.

They expressed confidence that the realisation of the ASEAN Community has set a milestone in the integration process and will ensure lasting peace, security and resilience in an outward-looking region, with
economies that are vibrant, competitive and highly integrated and an inclusive community that is embedded with a strong sense of togetherness and common identity.

The declaration also underlines the leaders’ aspiration towards establishing a truly rules-based, people-oriented, people-centered ASEAN Community where our peoples continue to participate in and benefit fully from the on-going process of ASEAN integration and community building.

They also pledged continued commitment to the on-going process of ASEAN community building, including an ASEAN Community’s post-2015 vision, guided by the purposes and principles of the ASEAN Charter. PND (jm)

President Aquino urges China to respect rule of law
(Malaysia) President Benigno Aquino III once again apealed to China to respect the rule of law amid increasing tensions in the South China Sea due to Beijing’s massive land reclamation and use of force, which he said has threatened livelihoods of Filipino fishermen and damagdamage mn ecological environment in the disputed waters.

In his intervention during the 10th East Asia Summit here on Sunday, November 22, the President enumerated the incidents in the contested waters that have affected the relations between the Philippines and China.

“During my watch, among the first incidents as regards the maritime issue involved a survey ship conducting studies arising from a service contract we awarded. It was forced out of the Reed Bank, in an area 80 miles from the island of Palawan, which is thus clearly within our Exclusive Economic Zone. Later, Chinese fishing boats were caught carrying species covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, 120 miles from Masinloc, Zambales, again within our Exclusive Economic Zone,” he said.

“We had been asked not to make these incidents public, and we agreed, in an effort to deescalate the situation. However, the incidents did not cease. More recently, a PLAN frigate with Bow No. 571 allegedly accosted and challenged another survey ship conducting studies on a contract we awarded, about 30 to 40 nautical miles from Palawan,” he added.

“I have also had to respond to fishermen in my country, complaining about how they can no longer fish in their traditional waters; they ask for explanations why they can no longer take shelter within Scarborough Shoal during times of inclement whether. It has come to a point wherein we are now no longer allowed to enter areas within our Exclusive Economic Zone,” he further said.

The President said these incidents were among the reasons that prompted Manila to resort to international arbitration, which China has repeatedly refused to honor.

Facing all 10 ASEAN member states plus eight major dialogue partners namely United States, Russia, China, India, Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, President Aquino stressed that elevating maritime cooperation as priority pillar will further heighten the relevance of the EAS.

He noted that maritime disputes have been a subject of concern, not only to the region, but to the entire international community as well.

“It is regrettable that China continues to massively reclaim and build structures in the sea known by many names, in total disregard of international law as well as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. Many countries have expressed serious concerns that these actions threaten freedom of navigation and unimpeded lawful commerce in one of the world’s most strategic waterways,” he said.

President Aquino said the Philippines would continue to push for the completion of a binding code of conduct for parties in the South China Sea stressing that “the great equalizer is the rule of law; and under the rule of law, right prevails over might.”

In light of recent developments in the South China Sea, the Chief Executive said the Philippines appreciates Beijing’s expression of adherence to international law in the position paper it submitted to the Arbitral Tribunal in December 2014, as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent statement on the non-militarization of the South China Sea.

“As the arbitration process we have entered into continues to its logical conclusion, we are hopeful that China would honor its word and respect the rule of law. The world is watching and expects no less from a responsible global leader,” he said.

The President expressed appreciation for the growing support from the international community for a peaceful resolution of disputes in the region.

“The tribunal’s recent ruling on its jurisdiction over this matter is welcome news, not only for the Philippines, but also for all nations who wish to arrive at a durable resolution concerning maritime disputes,” he said.

“We are determined to see this arbitration case to its final outcome, and hope that its conclusion will contribute to the directions we will take, particularly as regards the full and effective implementation of the DOC and the expeditious conclusion of a Code of Conduct,” he added.

Leaders at the EAS Summit adopted the Declaration on Enhancing Regional Maritime Cooperation, which promotes peace, stability and security in the region by redoubling cooperative efforts, namely: encouraging more countries to accede to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), ensuring the universal application of international law and respect for sovereignty, ensuring that all countries enjoy and exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS.

The leaders likewise expressed support for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and early conclusion of an effective code of conduct on the basis of consensus. PND (jb)

Palace thanks Filipinos for helping make the country’s APEC hosting a success
Malacañang expressed its gratitude to millions of Filipinos nationwide who helped make the country’s recent hosting of the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting and other related summits a huge success.

Speaking over Radyo ng Bayan, Sunday, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said this particular accomplishment would not be possible without the tremendous support and cooperation of the general public.

“Marami po tayong ginawa rito at nagpapasalamat po tayo sa kooperasyon ng ating sambayanan. Tagumpay po ito ng ating sambayanang Pilipinas. So maraming salamat sa ating mga kababayan sa isang matagumpay na pag-ho-host po ng APEC,” Lacierda said.

What made the country’s hosting even more noteworthy, Lacierda said, is that we managed to hold such international event without major complications, especially in terms of security, in light of the recent terror attacks in Paris.

“I know we have pleaded for understanding but this is a once and a lifetime opportunity for us to show our best foot forward and considering the difficulties, considering the recent situation on the Paris attacks, the security concerns, we were able to successfully host not just the APEC Leaders’ Summit, but huwag natin pong kalimutan sa buong taon po ang ating ginawang hosting nitong APEC. Ang nakikita lang po natin siguro [ay] ‘yung nangyari po nitong APEC Leaders’ Summit last week,” Lacierda said.

The Philippines hosted the yearlong APEC summit, since December last year. Overall, 44 meetings were held in nine cities across Luzon and Visayas, including Manila, Clark, Subic, Tagaytay, Bacolod, Boracay, Bagac, Iloilo, and Cebu.

The annual gathering of individuals to promote trade and other economic policies culminated in the just concluded APEC Leaders’ Meeting held in Manila on November 18 and 19.

Twenty heads of government including US President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other representatives from APEC member economies participated in the event with Colombia as guest observer.

Throughout the year, Lacierda noted, the country played host to 13,402 delegates, 9,607 meeting participants and delegates, and 2,678 foreign media delegates who were served in 21 major hotels.

Security proved to be the major challenge in the Philippines’ hosting, especially during the APEC Leaders’ Week, as the government was forced to close major thoroughfares and issue no-fly zones in the airports to ensure the safety of arriving world economic leaders.

As the Filipinos are known for their trademark hospitality, Lacierda thanked the public for bearing with these security procedures and enduring all the hardships just to make sure our guests are treated well throughout their stay in the country.

“Nakita po nila ‘yung world-class hospitality ng ating mga kababayan. Hindi talaga [maikakaila] ang galing ng ating kababayan sa pag-welcome sa ating mga foreign guest, sa mga foreigner,” Lacierda said.

“We really go beyond the extra mile to make sure that our guests are treated well and for that we thank the entire Filipino people for the hardship, for the support, for the cooperation that (they extended) for this whole year of hosting APEC,” he added. PND (hdc)

President Aquino again pushes for peaceful resolution of sea row
(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) President Benigno Aquino III again pressed for the peaceful way of resolving ongoing maritime disputes in the South China Sea.
The President made his reiteration during the 18th ASEAN Plus Three (APT) Summit here attended by ASEAN leaders as well as China, Japan and South Korea.“Excellencies, our long-term goal of building an East Asian Community will only be truly realized when cooperation is matched by a steadfast commitment to maintain peace, stability, and security in the region,” he said.

“On this note, the Philippines reiterates the primacy of the rule of law. We underscore the need for peaceful settlement of disputes in the sea known by many names, in accordance with international law including UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea). We are determined to see our arbitration case to its final, legally-binding conclusion, and likewise urge all parties to pursue the establishment of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea,” he added.

South China Sea has been the center of Aquino’s statements during his interventions in various ASEAN plenary sessions here including the 18th ASEAN-China Summit attended by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Aquino stressed that the speedy creation of a binding Code of Conduct on the South China Sea would be a “fitting symbol of the maturing relationship between ASEAN and China.”

Also during the APT Summit, the President underscored the need to come up with policies on water resources management to address the rising challenge posed by global climate change including El Niño.

“In the coming year, our scientists are anticipating the other face of climate change: A more intensified El Niño, which can dry up our reservoirs and deprive our lands of the harvests we have become accustomed to,” he said.

The President said he welcomed the progress in the implementation of the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR) Agreement, which remains the main mechanism for strengthening regional food security and reducing poverty in the region.

“APTERR can likewise be extended to cover several other commodities, and we highlight the need to explore the possibility of such. We also urge the transformation of the ASEAN Food Security Information System (AFSIS) into a permanent mechanism to strengthen food security in the region,” he added. PND (jb)

Aquino recognizes Japan’s support for peaceful resolution of sea row
(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) President Benigno Aquino III expressed his appreciation for Japan’s resolute stand on resolving maritime disputes through peaceful means and in accordance with the international law.

In his intervention during the 18th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Japan Summit here on Sunday, November 22, President Aquino recognized Japan’s contribution in promoting peace and stability in the region amid ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

“The Philippines likewise appreciates Japan’s interest and concern as regards recent developments in the sea known by many names. Japan has taken a strong stand against the use of intimidation, coercion, and force, as well as unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo in the disputed areas,” Aquino said.

“Japan has also consistently supported calls for the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, and for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, as well as the expeditious conclusion and establishment of a legally-binding Code of Conduct,” he added.

Aquino noted Japan’s active role in maintaining peace and stability in the region by participating in ASEAN Regional Forum and organizing intercessional meeting on maritime security.

“In the context of the evolving relations in the region, responsible states have also been increasingly called upon to assume more significant roles,” he said.

He cited Japan’s current efforts under “Proactive Contribution to Peace” based on the principle of international cooperation, and of the significant role it played in the ASEAN Regional Forum.

Japan co-chaired the Inter-Sessional Meeting (ISM) on Maritime Security with the Philippines and the United States from 2015 to 2017 during the ASEAN forum.

“Such efforts enable ASEAN to strengthen engagement with Japan in the pursuit of peace, stability, and prosperity in the region,” said Aquino.

The President stressed that after four decades, Japan has become ASEAN’s “natural ally for peace and stability”.

He also mentioned Japan’s support for ASEAN’s central role in the evolving regional security architecture.

“Over the years, they have actively supported capacity-building by ASEAN Member States to respond to traditional and non-traditional security challenges, and to enhance the foundations of a rules-based security environment,” he said.

He likewise thanked Japan for the US$110-billion investment plan for infrastructure projects in Asia through the Asian Development Bank.

“This is a major step towards strengthening our physical connectivity, which we have always deemed vital in our journey towards equitable prosperity,” he said.

Aquino also noted Japan’s future role in promoting economic growth in the region considering that Japan is the second largest source of foreign direct investments into ASEAN.

“We have reason to believe that these investment linkages will grow even stronger given the official launch of the ASEAN Community. We also note Japan’s latest major initiatives on human capital development. These initiatives do more than bolster competitiveness; they help promote economic growth that is inclusive, sustainable, and whose benefits can be felt by all sooner rather than later,” he said.

Aquino said ASEAN is looking forward to enhancing partnership with Japan “in every possible aspect” with the full implementation of ASEAN economic integration by yearend. PND (jb)