Top military officials of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) vowed to work together to fight terrorism that threatens the region’s peace and security, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Sunday.
The Asean has 10 members — Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP public affairs office, said the military chiefs from the regional bloc signed the joint statement aimed at enhancing joint military exercises, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capacities
The move also seeks to beef up efforts to formalize the Asean Chiefs of Defense Forces Informal Meeting which was first agreed upon during the 12th ACDFIM held in Malaysia in 2015 to become a mechanism to combat the prevalence of violent ideologies and create a coordinated response to non-traditional threats like disasters.
AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año, who also sits as the 2017 ACDFIM chairman, spearheaded the call for the enhancement of cooperation and collaboration among the Asean Armed Forces for a more secure and stable region.
“The threats of terrorism, particularly the spread of ISIS-inspired extremism; maritime security concerns and onslaught of disasters and calamities became the focus of the meeting and these inspired the mutual agreement to forge stronger partnerships,” Arevalo said.
During the meeting’s plenary session, Año emphasized the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the regional bloc in order to strengthen its economic leverage and potential.
“Asean has become a rising global economic force due to its strategic location and economic activity. It has abundant resources, a more integrated market, and a large combined GDP from its members,” Año said.
“By providing security to our respective nations, we create a better environment for growth and prosperity. And through purposive security cooperation, we actually help to secure and sustain our region’s economic gains. We all know that a secure Asean is a progressive Asean,” he added.
The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia have an existing trilateral agreement to fight trans-border crimes, terrorism, piracy and other terror activities in the Sulu-Sulawesi-Celebes Sea.
Año said such pacts “negate the threats and show that strong military cooperation is important in aligning our security requirements and initiatives”.
The AFP chief also introduced the Development Support and Security Plan “Kapayapaan” as the Philippine military’s approach to achieve national well-being through an interplay of good governance, security, and development.
“With this intensified holistic approach, we have made a lot of headway in our fight against terrorism. Efforts with the help of local leaders and the populace have significantly crippled the operations of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria)-linked terrorist groups,” Año said.