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Now Reading: REGIONAL COOPERATION | Philippines takes lead role in security discussions in Southeast Asia
REGIONAL COOPERATION | Philippines takes lead role in security discussions in Southeast Asia
July 2, 2020 , 02:20 PM

By Manny Mogato, News5 editor-at-large

(July 2, 2020) – The Philippines will take up two pressing regional security issues when Southeast Asian defense chiefs meet with counterparts from regional powers in October in Vietnam, its defense secretary said on Thursday.

Delfin Lorenzana said terrorism and maritime security will be two important issues on the table, apart from the region’s coordinated response on the coronavirus pandemic.

Defense ministers from ten Southeast Asian countries will gather in Hanoi for an annual Asean Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus with counterparts from US, Russia, China, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea to discuss regional security issues.

Lorenzana said he will talk to his fellow Asean ministers the possibility of launching coordinated and joint patrols in the South China Sea.

Four of ten ASEAN states – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – are among six claimant countries in the South China Sea and there were proposals to hold drills in the area.

“It’s a good idea, I will talk to the other ministers about the idea of conducting joint patrols in the disputed areas,” he told a virtual news conference.

He said ASEAN countries, like Indonesia and Malaysia had joined the Philippines in joint patrols in the Celebes and Sulu seas in the past which had prevented an influx of terrorists from crossing the borders between Malaysia and the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as Indonesia and the Philippines.

He said the claimant states will have try to replicate the same patrols in Spratlys, which can help build confidence in the areas.

At the same time, Lorenzana said he will also try to talk to his counterparts to try to resolve the refugee problem in Myanmar as nearly 1 million Rohingya Muslims had fled to nearby Bangladesh due to military operations.

“Our president has offered to take some Rohingya refugees but it is interesting that Muslim countries in the region, like Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia are not interested in hosting some of these people,” he said.

He said there are dangers terrorist groups in Myanmar could infiltrate and recruit local Muslims to their cause but the Philippines “fully sympathize” with the Rohingya people who cannot get a citizenship in Myanmar where they are born and lived through their lives.

He said the Philippines has recognized the humanitarian crisis in the area and would like to offer help. “The Rohingya people should be allowed to stay and be treated with kindness and compassion in Myanmar,” he added.

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