Delegates of the ongoing 38th General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) conducted dialogues with several observer countries among them China, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, European Union, Australia, and India wherein they tackled issues and challenges facing the region and the global community.
The AIPA delegates and representatives of the observer countries vowed to strengthen partnership and cooperation in the battle against climate change, terrorism and violent extremism, illegal drugs trade, human trafficking, and cyber security attacks.
During the dialogue with China, the Philippine Delegation led by Rep. Reynaldo Umali (2nd District, Oriental Mindoro), chairman of the House committee on justice, said the bilateral relations between the Philippines and China is “experiencing a different vigor” under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, and expressed hope that the partnership between the two countries will become even stronger and deeper.
The Philippines said it aims to expand cooperation with its ASEAN partners in disaster risk reduction management, including engagement and coordination of relief efforts in areas of preparedness, prevention and mitigation, recovery and rehabilitation, and others. The country also vowed to strengthen and uphold the implementation of ASEAN Agreement in Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER).
Stating that terrorism is a grave threat to the security, peace and stability, the Philippines said the keys in combating terrorism are common counter-terrorism intelligence database, exchange of personnel, transfer of expertise, joint operations, and sharing of experiences.
On cybercrime, the Philippines called on AIPA member-countries and partners to enact laws that will criminalize diverse cyber-related threats and cyber terrorism attacks, and effective procedural laws to grant enforcement officials the necessary authority to investigate and prosecute cyber-related offenses.
Thailand, for its part, called for enhanced cooperation to fight transnational crime, illegal drugs, and human trafficking. It urged AIPA member countries to honor and support all ASEAN agreements.
Indonesia hailed the dialogue as a venue to promote economic development and political stability in the region and in fighting transnational crime, particularly cybercrime, human trafficking, and fuel smuggling. It underscored the importance of dialogue on the South China Sea issue and expressed support for freedom of navigation and self-restraint.
Vietnam, for its part, called for enhanced mechanisms between China and the AIPA member countries in addressing transnational crime and disaster management. It expressed support to the peaceful resolution of conflict in the South China Sea and called on all parties and stakeholders to exercise self-restraint.
In response, China stressed the importance of security cooperation with AIPA member countries in the battle against transnational crime and called for deeper collaboration in disaster management.
The AIPA dialogue with China was presided by House Deputy Speaker Sharon Garon (Party-list, AAMBIS OWA) and participated in by Reps. Rosemarie Arenas (3rd District, Pangasinan), Mark Aeron Sambar (Party-list, PBA), and Reynaldo Umali (2nd District, Oriental Mindoro).
Meanwhile, during the discussions with the Republic of Korea, the Philippine Delegation led by Rep. Ann Hofer (2nd District, Zamboanga Sibugay), chairperson of the House committee on higher and technical education, informed Korea and the AIPA delegates that the Philippines has enacted measures on disaster preparedness, mitigation, response, and rehabilitation.
The Philippines highlighted the importance of international cooperation and support in disaster response phase, especially in search and rescue operations and emergency medical operations.
Malaysia underscored the measures it has carried out in battling illicit drugs trade and human trafficking and in addressing hate speech. Singapore stressed the importance of combating transnational crimes, especially terrorism and cybersecurity. Myanmar highlighted the issues of radicalism, terrorism and violent extremism, and trafficking of persons.
In response, the Republic of Korea agreed with AIPA member countries that international cooperation is essential in disaster management and in the fight against transnational crime.
The dialogue with the Republic of Korea was presided by Deputy Speaker Linabelle Ruth Villarica of Bulacan and attended by Garin, Hofer and Reps. Xavier Jesus Romualdo (Lone District, Camiguin), and Arthur Yap (3rd District, Bohol).
Likewise, the Russian Federation delegation during a dialogue with the AIPA delegates committed to continue assisting the ASEAN community, especially in the area of countering terrorism.
House Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano presided over the dialogue between the AIPA delegates and the Russian Federation delegation headed by Hon. Olga Epifanova who said Russia wants to step up cooperation with each of the 10 member-states of ASEAN in fighting terrorism and responding to man-made disasters brought about by urban density and change of climate.
Epifanova cited the need to create frameworks for ensuring water security and to step up cooperation and share experiences to counter disasters.
On the anti-terrorism drive, Epifanova said enhancing cyber security is important because of the threat of terrorism through use of the internet. She cited the importance of enhancing information security.
A member of the Russian Federation delegation Hon. Mikhail Shchetinin said terrorists have remained strong because they are tightly connected with each other. He said countries fighting terrorism are considered allies of the Russian Federation.
“Regardless of race and political affiliation, terrorists are constantly enhancing their force. As a legal expert in international law, (I say) there is no definition of terrorism. Different countries have different definition of terrorism,” said Shchetinin.
He enjoined the ASEAN parliamentarians to combine their efforts and join the Russian Federation in combatting terrorism. “It is a huge scourge. We have little time, let’s act promptly,” said Shchetinin.
Pia Cayetano also chaired the dialogue with the European Parliament. She said delegates from AIPA member countries find ways to collaborate to strengthen cooperation in addressing problems in the region, particularly in disaster management and climate change adaptation, combating transnational crimes, such as cybercrime, terrorism and violent extremism, trafficking in persons, illegal drugs and fuel smuggling.
“I’m sure that all of us would agree that climate change is very important and there is a pressing need for organization and management of our resources and responsibilities for dealing with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies, response and recovery in order to lessen the impact of disasters,” Cayetano said.
“Transnational crimes undermine sustainable development and the achievement of targets across the agenda, including those fundamental to peace, security, the rule of law, and governance. They also have a deleterious impact on domestic resource mobilization,” she said.
Among the issues the AIPA delegates raised before the European Parliament include the sustainability of trade such as in palm oil as expressed by Indonesia and Malaysia; climate change and the environment; creation of awareness and deeper understanding of terrorism; free trade agreements; cyber security; request for increased support in the form of resources; and the sharing of best practices with respect to illegal drug menace as raised by House committee on dangerous drugs chairman Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (2nd District, Surigao del Norte).
Hon. Neena Gill, head of the European Parliament delegation, answered the concerns point by point, detailing the many initiatives of the European Union relative to the matters they have raised. She also emphasized that, as good conduits of change, they need to ensure good friendship and cooperation so these issues can be resolved together with ASEAN.
“I know that Europe and Southeast Asia can appear to be worlds apart, and it takes quite some time to get from one place to the other. But in many ways, we realized that the issues and challenges you’re dealing with are the same, and this shared interest also create opportunities. And I do believe Europeans do truly care about this part of the world, and I think if we can find ways of joining forces, there’s so much more that we can achieve,” Gill said.
Other members of the Philippine delegation include Reps. Edgar Sarmiento (1st District, Samar), Ana Cristina Siquian Go (2nd District, Isabela), Lord Allan Jay Velasco (Lone District, Marinduque), Enrico Pineda (Party-list, 1-Pacman), and Arthur Defensor, Jr. (3rd District, Iloilo).
Meanwhile, Australian Delegation Head Hon. George Christensen said ASEAN and Australia share a strong commitment to counter terrorism. “It is a significant security challenge for us all,” he said.
He said effective responses and cooperation will defeat terrorism. There will be a special counter-terrorism summit in Sydney in March 2018, he said. “We have to sustain that cooperation,” he said.
Christensen said to defeat radicalism, one should champion the values of his country and community. “We can stop the spread of radicalism when we champion what we got and what we stand for,” he said.
He said Australia extended help to Indonesia when it was attacked by terrorists, and similarly it helped the Philippines during the crisis in Marawi City. He said Australia extended help through offering counter-terrorism training of Philippine forces and intelligence gathering.
Deputy Speaker Linabelle Ruth Villarica, who presided the dialogue, said AIPA member-states and Australia, have a fruitful relationship and bilateral cooperation for 40 years. “Many have cited the economic, social and political assistance and the joint programs that Australia have extended to our countries. The Australian delegation also extended their appreciation to all of us for the favorable relationship with every ASEAN state,” said Villarica.
Hofer, head of the Philippine delegation, said the Philippines have 49 signed agreements with Australia. She urged Australia to continue its assistance in providing technical education to Filipinos especially since President Duterte just recently signed the Free Tertiary Education and Technical Vocation Law.
“Since we have an agreement with Australia on technical education, we want to continue dialogues on this because a lot of our countrymen are employed in your country,” said Hofer.
Christensen said there are about 10,000 Filipino students studying in Australia. “In fact, that increases the level of knowledge, expertise and our relationship as a whole,” he said.
The AIPA delegates also held a dialogue with the delegation of the Republic of Belarus which obtained AIPA observer status in September 2011. It has been participating annually in AIPA’s activities. In its dialogue with parliamentarians in the Southeast Asian region, the Belarus delegation expressed willingness to help other countries in their efforts towards disaster risk reduction, mitigation and management.
The three-member delegation headed by Hon. Doctor Dmitry Shevtsov also shared the country’s laws, policies and programs in regard to combatting transnational crimes, terrorism, trafficking in persons and illegal drugs, among others.
The US State Department’s 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report (TPR) identified Belarus as Tier 3 country and the Philippines as Tier 1 country. Tier 3 is the lowest category which signifies non-compliance with the ideals of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 or TVPA, the US’ main policy against human trafficking. Tier 1 is the highest category and implies full compliance with TVPA standards.
Speaking in behalf of the Philippine delegation, Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez said that the country’s diplomatic ties with Belarus which started in May 1996 is still young and offers great opportunities for trade and commerce especially in agriculture as well as exchange of best practices in the field of governance. She said that the Philippines looks forward to the signing of Memorandum of Agreements that will forge bilateral relations between the two countries.
Romualdez, who represents the first district of Leyte which was badly hit by typhoon Haiyan, said that the Philippines welcomes global collective response in addressing the issue of disaster management given the country’s extreme vulnerability to natural calamities.
Delegates from other AIPA member states made a pitch for increased volume of trade, investments and exchange of business information between the observer country Belarus and the ASEAN region. In comparison, the 2016 gross national income per capita of Belarus is US$ 17,210 while that of the Philippines is only US$9,400.
In response, Hon. Doctor Dmitry Shevtson said that Belarus is ready to cooperate in all items mentioned by the AIPA delegates specifically trade and investments, post-graduate education, transnational crimes, and disaster management.
On the AIPA delegates’ dialogue with the Indian Delegation, presiding officer Deputy Speaker Romero Quimbo of Marikina City said that 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the ASEAN-Indian dialogue relations, 15 years of summit level interactions and five years of strategic partnership.
“The ASEAN and India have had a long, historic and fruitful partnership in key areas, particularly in economic-political security and socio-cultural cooperation. The ASEAN-Indian Summit which was initiated in 2002, and which is now a yearly celebration, is an important testament of the growing and deepening partnership between ASEAN and India. It is aimed at bolstering cooperation and support security, counter-terrorism, trade connectivity, science and technology, and human resource development,” stressed Quimbo.
He said the dialogue is intended to solidify cooperation with India, a strategic partner in the ASEAN Region’s community-building efforts.
The Indian delegation headed by Hon. Ganie Singh remarked that the ASEAN has chosen a very appropriate topic which is inclusive change. “Change, at all times, in all years, is a demand. And the international community has to sit together and understand and tackle these changes towards proactive development,” said Singh.
Singh further said that drugs and terrorism are new challenges which must be faced together.
On the topic of disaster management cooperation, he said India has been at the forefront of several disaster relief efforts across the world, including the tsunami in Indonesia and the earthquakes in Nepal and Sri Lanka.
On the issue of transnational crimes, the delegation said terrorism is a very important issue which should be tackled by the world, and the challenges posed by it are compounded by the digital age, which is why they emphasized the need to work together to tackle the aspect of terrorism.
“Recently, very close to this place, in Marawi in the Philippines, there was a terrorist attack. India was one of the first countries to offer an assistance of US$25-million for relief and rehabilitation in that area. Such assistance helps the region to work together on disasters and anti-terrorism activities,” the Indian delegation said.
In answering queries from the delegates, the Indian delegation shared their best practices and mentioned India’s successful national registration process, with 99.3 percent of Indian nationals registered with the AADHAAR system, which the Philippine delegation hopes to learn from and emulate.
Other House Members who composed the Philippine Delegation were Reps. Lucy Gomez (4th District, Leyte), Angelina Tan (4th District, Quezon), Dakila Carlo Cua (Lone District, Quirino) and Cristopher de Venecia (4th District, Pangasinan). | Congress