PALEMBANG: The peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is a welcome development in view of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) integration in 2015, Indonesia’s highest defense official said.
In an exclusive interview with The Manila Times, Air Chief Marshall Djoko Suyanto, who is also Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Legal, Political and Security Affairs, said peace in Southern Philippines would contribute greatly to the overall peace and order situation in the region.
This, he said, would spell success for the 2015 integration of all 10 Asean-member countries as a viable economic bloc.
“National security of each country will contribute hugely to the regional security. The regional security will also have a direct impact to the other pillars [of the integration]such as the economic pillar and the social cultural pillars that we are trying to build,” Suyanto said.
“We welcome the initiative of the Philippine government to talk peace with [MILF]. We do not want that what happened in the Philippines although internal will have impacts to or affect other countries like Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia,” he stressed.
Indonesia has taken the role of observer in the peace process between the government and Muslim secessionists in Mindanao. Malaysia, on the other hand, has taken an active role as facilitator and peace broker, hosting most of the negotiations.
According to the top Indonesian defense official, all Asean members are encouraged to “manage domestic security” issues so that it will not dampen ties with other countries in the region.
“Regional security is actually the [offshoot]of each Asean country’s domestic security. From every regional security meetings, we are trying to elaborate to each member country to manage their domestic security,” Suyanto further stressed.
“I totally support and [am]totally grateful also that these [peace]opportunities are leading toward a better [Asean community],” he pointed out.
Suyanto was the Commander-in-Chief of the National Armed Forces (TNI) of Indonesia from 2006 to 2007. He was appointed as the Air Force’s territorial commander for the whole of eastern Indonesia in 2001. Two years later he took up the post of Operational Assistant at Air Force Headquarters and in 2005 he was appointed Chief of the Air Staff.
In 2006, Suyanto became Commander-in-Chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces, the first Air Force officer to hold this post.
Give and take
Speaking from personal experience during the conflict in Aceh, Suyanto said it is crucial for the Philippine government and the MILF to “give and take.”
“From my personal experience as chief of air force and then chief of armed forces, first we must make sure there will be no armed conflict. This must be the basic reference for the [Philippine government and MILF]. This is indeed a difficult starting point to begin with. However if we do want to achieve peace itself then we should lay down arms and [go for a]ceasefire then we can discuss and negotiate more comfortably,” he explained.
“We cannot reach any compromise with guns behind us,” Suyanto emphasized.
According to him, the final peace agreement once perfected, will benefit not only the Philippines but the Asean region as well, noting that “peace initiative, in whatever form it may take thereon, actually shows good signals and [offer]good contributions toward [regional]peace and security.”
He said that Indonesia was “eager” to see the conclusion of the peace pact, adding that they have always welcomed being part of the solution to the Mindanao conflict.
“If this is what the government and our friends in [Mindanao] want,” he said.
The 10 nations that make up the Asean would take on the collective character as as “Asean Economic Community” which will establish “a highly competitive single market and production” through the integration of their economies.
Besides security issues, some groups believe that the Philippines may not yet be out of the race to promote integration of our economies, since the country somehow seems unprepared to meet the competitive challenges, for instance, when trade barriers are lifted to allow for the free flow of goods and services in the region.
Previously, Philippine Representative in Taiwan Antonio Basilio cited the Asean Agreement on the Movement of Natural Persons (MNP), which he said, is one of the series of steps leading to the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) by 2015.
Basilio noted that, for one, the integration of Asean economies will provide opportunities for Filipino “skilled workers” to work in other Asean countries.
For his part, Budget Sectrary Florencio Abad said there are and will always be differential impacts across countries arising from the integration of the Southeast Asian economies.
“The Asean region is a huge market; it is home to many emerging markets,” Abad said, citing that there would be even more economic opportunities, but the Philippine government still has a lot to do.
For our country to properly gear up for Asean 2015, the government must continue a structural transformation of the economy to make it more investment and industry-led, he said.
With the signing of the four annexes of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, President Benigno Aquino 3rd said people in Mindanao should support the process to ensure a smooth transition to a new Bangsamoro entity.
Aquino said the credibility and dignity of his administration was at stake if the peace deal failed.
The Malaysian-brokered peace deal could lead to the laying down of arms of one of the largest secessionist groups in Mindanao. However, the peace deal is opposed by other rebel groups—notably the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which already has a peace agreement with the government, and a new breakaway faction known as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
An Extremist group known as the Abu Sayyaf has continued its kidnapping and bombing activities.
An earlier peace agreement with the MILF was thwarted in 2008 after the Supreme Court declared the carving out of a new Bangsamoro Juridical Entity unconstitutional. Aquino hopes to get his administration’s peace framework through using legislative amendments and a referendum.
JOEL M. SY EGCO