PH, Indonesia: Maritime deal model for dispute settlement
PH, Indonesia: Maritime deal model for dispute settlement
President Benigno Aquino III and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono witness the signing of 3 bilateral agreements that bring their countries to a 'new phase' of cooperation

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and Indonesia on Friday, May 23, signed 3 agreements, including what their leaders called a “new key milestone” in bilateral cooperation – the delimitation of maritime boundaries in overlapping exclusive economic zones – which they believe can be a “model” for dispute settlement.

President Benigno Aquino III and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in Manila for a two-day state visit, witnessed the signing of the agreements at the Palace Reception Hall after a bilateral meeting.

In their joint statement after the meeting, both leaders cited in particular the significance of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of the Republic of Indonesia Concerning the Delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone Boundary.

“This is a milestone agreement that is founded on the principles of international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It serves as solid proof to our steadfast commitment to uphold the rule of law and pursue the peaceful and equitable settlement of maritime concerns,” Aquino said.

Yudhoyono said the important agreement, negotiated for 20 years by the two countries, is “in fact is a new key milestone” that would not only benefit both countries but would also bring them even closer.

“This indeed is a model, a good example that any border disputes including maritime border tension can be resolved peacefully,” he said.

The Indonesian leader added that the use of “military might” in territorial disputes would endanger not only regional, but also global, peace and stability.

‘Return to spirit of DOC’

Yudhoyono said he and Aquino “also exchanged views on the importance of ASEAN and also the countries in Asia, so that we may truly safeguard the stability, the security in our region,” and cited tensions in East Asia and South East Asia on the South China Sea row.

Yudhoyono said with this in mind, all concerned parties “must return to the spirit” of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed by ASEAN member-nations and China in 2002, which provides guidelines for claimants to avoid creating tension in the disputed area.

He urged “all parties who have an interest, to maintain order, to maintain stability in our region…to return to the spirit that we have agreed upon and that we have in possession.”

“The position of ASEAN is clear; the position of Indonesia is clear: that any of the tension must be resolved peacefully without the use of military force. We must return to the spirit that we have in the Declaration of Conduct – Code of Conduct, COC – which we can refer to International Law, which refer to the resolution, using political [means] and diplomacy as a tool,” he said.

The Philippines has accused China of repeated violation of the DOC, as well as the UNCLOS with its incursions on Philippine territory as contained in a pleading it had filed before an international arbitral tribunal against China.

Stronger ties, common concerns

The two countries also forged a Memorandum of Understanding between the Commission on Higher Education of the Philippines and the Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia on Higher Education Cooperation, which seeks to  promote cooperation, higher education, research and training for the mutual benefit of the Philippines and Indonesia.

The third agreement is the Memorandum of Understanding between the Anti-Terrorism Council of the  Philippines and the National Counter Terrorism Agency of Indonesia on combating international terrorism to be signed, which aims to enhance counter terrorism cooperation between the officials of security, defense, intelligence and law enforcement agencies of the Philippines and Indonesia.

 “These agreements reflect the strong resolve of both our nations to not only deepen our bilateral engagements, but also, and more importantly, enable our peoples to be true partners in achieving prosperity,” Aquino said.

Aquino said he and Yudhoyono affirmed their countries’ “unwavering solidarity” during their meeting, where they exchanged views on enhancing economic cooperation, particularly their belief that two-way trade can be further increased.

“We took note of Indonesia’s being the Philippines’ 11th largest trading partner in 2013, with total trade between us amounting to $3.51 billion. We both share the belief that much more can be done to maximize the prospects of equitable growth. In this regard, we took note of the commitment in the Plan of Action to double bilateral trade by 2016,” he said.

As both countries have migrant workers abroad, Yudhoyono said he had Aquino agreed to work “as close as possible, so that our migrant workers may receive the protection that they deserve…and their rights from the receiving countries.”

They also agreed to pursue cooperative activities in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), and to develop air and sea links between the two countries.

“I believe such linkages will spur trade, accelerate SME development, and strengthen community empowerment in the Southern Philippines and in the Sulawesi region….This will ultimately redound to more doors of opportunity opening for all our peoples,” Aquino said.

The President also cited Yudhoyono’s “visionary leadership…both as President of his people and as a voice of reason to all of us in Southeast Asia” which he said is affirmed by his receipt of the World Economic Forum Global Statesmanship Award, the first for an Asian leader.

Aquino will host a state dinner for Yudhoyono and  in Malacãnang on Friday night, where he will confer on the Indonesian leader the Order of Sikatuna with rank of Rajah. –

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