THREE international events last week—1) the Asean defense ministerial meeting and 2) the International Security Conference in Singapore, and 3) the Climate Change Summit in Paris—did not get as much attention in the local media.
That was because the shooting war in Marawi with the international terrorist Islamic State, the subsequent imposition of martial law in Mindanao and reactions to it, were naturally the favorite items.
All of these three external happenings have immediate and long-term impact on the economies and political stability of the members of Asean—the region predicted to be the fastest growing part of the world in the next decade.
Briefly the following were the outcomes of these conferences and their effects on on all of us:
1) The Asean defense conference: All 10 Asean armed forces chiefs agreed to unite and coordinate their fight against the global terrorists Islamic State (IS) because this extremist Muslim group is losing in Iraq, Syria and the rest of the Middle East.
Specifically, coordination means working closer together in exchanges of security intelligence information, joint anti-piracy patrols in their sea borders and military exercises.
Poverty in the Southeast Asian region, with the exception of Singapore and Brunei, is still an ally of the terrorists. Another is the Asian extended family system whereby relatives protect each other.
So when the IS recruits young boys from the Muslim communities in the region, the relatives of these new recruits are prone to hide and protect them in their homes because blood relations prevails over any other national considerations.
In a published interview with Rappler, a Singapore-based terrorist analyst, Rohan Gunaratna, reportedly the head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said that “the time for taking the threat seriously has come” as the IS is shifting its “epicenter” to the Philippines.
The Rappler interview come out after the IS attack in Marawi, resulting in Muslim and Christian, and military and civilian deaths, injuries and family dislocations—and President Rodrigo Duterte’s (obviously necessary) constitutional declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
There are other logical reasons for IS turning to Southeast Asia as its operations center. For one, the region is predominantly Muslim with the Philippines as the only Catholic-majority country.
For another, in spite of the human rights critics’ litany against Duterte, he appears to have the approval of the US, China, Japan and Russia for his campaign against corruption, illegal drugs and insurgency. And he appears to be succeeding.
And if the prediction that the Philippines will be Southeast Asia’s fastest growing country in the next decade, as China slows down, becomes a reality, then the inclusive progress will be rocketing up. That would render the alternative government, or the Third Caliphate, that the IS aspires a mirage.
This is the time for both the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islmaic Liberation Front (MILF) to prove their sincerity in concluding a peace agreement with the Philippine government and help in the inclusive growth of poverty-strapped Muslim Mindanao.
Just join the Philippine military and national police forces in eliminating the foreigners in the Philippine IS-–by killing all of them—and convince their relatives who may have been recruited by the IS to surrender. Better yet, turn them in. They can be reintegrated to their original communities and help improve their own economic lives.
2. The International Security Conference in Singapore where US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis lauded China’s commitment to rein in North Korea’s nuclear missiles test program and help implement the UN sanctions against Pyongyang. The latest test firing last year was reported to be successful and rendered it capable of hitting any point up to 8,000 miles.
It is not hard to determine, just by stretching a tape measure on the global map, which countries are within 8,000 miles from North Korea; and howNorth Korea’s rogue nuclearization program endangers world peace and how the Philippines will be horribly affected if the North Korea’s temperamental leader Kim Jong-un decides to launch an attack.
Now is the time for the Philippines and the rest of the Asean to lay out the blueprint for food and water security because that will be another issue in case of further deterioration of the geopolitical situation in the South China Sea. Considering the vast natural agricultural and marine resources of the Asean 10, the region will have to be the major food source, unless total nuclear war demolishes all.
Mattis did not name China, but he was quoted as warning Beijing: “We oppose countries militarizing artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims unsupported by international law….we cannot and will not accept unilateral, coercive changes to the status quo.”
While China emphasizes that it will guarantee freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, there is international doubt about Beijing’s sincerity The US maintains that “freedom of navigation” includes military/naval vessels, but Beijing says military or naval ships and aircrafts are “threats” to China.
3. The Climate Change Summit conference in Paris where US President Donald Trump withdrew American accession to the agreement and drew harsh reactions from Germany, France and Italy.
Trump claimed reducing the world’s total carbon emission to less than 2 degrees Celsius to prevent earth warming and natural disasters will negatively affect the US economy.
But more natural disasters will prevent any economic growth in developing countries like the Philippines and the rest of Asean. The entire Southeast Asia will be severely affected and suffer more than the industrialized world.
We need cost efficient-minded managers of resources and technical experts in food and water sustainability to cope with such events within the next decade. Prepare for it.