Philippines Urges ARF Countries to Heighten Security Cooperation Amid Pandemic

Philippines Urges ARF Countries 1

Ambassador Ma. Theresa P. Lazaro, Foreign Affairs Acting Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and ASEAN Affairs, calls on ARF participating countries to continue and strengthen cooperation on issues of common concern amid the ongoing pandemic. (DFA-ASEAN photo)

MANILA 01 July 2021 – Foreign Affairs Acting Undersecretary Ma. Theresa P. Lazaro called on participating countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum (ARF) to continue and heighten cooperation on issues of common concern, such as on countering transnational crime and terrorism, and maritime security, amid the pandemic situation, during the ARF Senior Officials’ Meeting held on 29 June 2021. 

“In the second year of the pandemic, it is important for us not to lose sight of our cooperation on abiding issues of common concern. The ARF provides a significant venue for such dialogue and exchanges,” said Undersecretary Lazaro, who serves as Philippine SOM Leader to ASEAN. “Our work against transnational crime, particularly terrorism and cybercrime, must remain strong and constant even in the midst of the pandemic,” she added. 

The Undersecretary further noted the Philippines’ engagement with its partners in countering transnational crime, even as it undertakes measures locally such as the enactment of the Anti-Terror Law and the development of the National Cybersecurity Plan 2022.

Undersecretary Lazaro also said the Philippines remains committed to a law-based approach in the South China Sea, including the assertion of the 2016 Arbitral Award, which is now part of international law.

She also expressed the Philippines’ serious concerns over recent developments in the South China Sea, including infringements on its sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction.

Acting Undersecretary Lazaro informed the Meeting that despite the setbacks caused by the pandemic, the step-by-step resumption of the negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea is ongoing, with the Philippines, as Coordinator of ASEAN-China dialogue relations, spearheading the process. 

She said the conduct of the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting physically in Chongqing, China on 07 June 2021 is a testament to the will of ASEAN and China to hurdle obstacles posed by the pandemic.

Looking at ARF activities this year, Undersecretary Lazaro recalled the 2nd ARF Workshop on Aviation Security and Information Sharing held in February and co-chaired by the Philippines, Australia, and the United States, and called it an important dialogue in ARF. 

The ASEAN Regional Forum is a platform for dialogue and practical cooperation among its 27 participating countries, contributing to confidence-building and preventive diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region. END