Philippines Calls for an ASEAN Common Stand on Regional and GlobalIssues

11 March 2015 – Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Evan P. Garcia urged his ASEAN colleagues yesterday to foster common perspectives on regional and international issues as a measure of ASEAN solidarity and Centrality. Undersecretary Garcia emphasized that where needed, ASEAN can be a more active player in the international arena when it faces common concerns.

The Undersecretary participated in a series of ASEAN meetings in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from March 09 to 11 in preparation for the 26th ASEAN Summit to be held next month also in Malaysia. In these meetings, he noted that recent developments in the South China Sea highlight the need for urgent action to reduce the rising tensions in the area. He said that what is actually happening in the South China Sea does not match the diplomacy that is being undertaken to manage regional tensions, which are increasing the level of mistrust and heightening the dangers of unintended conflict in the region.

Undersecretary Garcia stressed that ASEAN Centrality necessitates finding the political will to address issues of common concern and improving ASEAN’s institutional capacity to do so. Discussions on centrality should be coordinated across ASEAN’s three Communities with the end view of taking a stand as a regional organization when needed. The ASEAN Secretariat, he concluded, must further develop its capacity to provide policy scanning and recommendations on regional and international issues.

At the Foreign Ministers’ Retreat early this year, Malaysia said that ASEAN would intensify efforts to conclude a code of conduct in the South China Sea under its chairmanship amid growing concerns from some members about land reclamation activities in the contested areas. The Philippines cautioned that ASEAN’s failure to address such critical issue in its backyard undermines ASEAN Centrality and unity.

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