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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Manila, Jakarta discuss SCS

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To beef up defense, border patrol ties amid rising tensions

The Philippines and Indonesia have agreed to bolster cooperation in defense and security amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, President Marcos said Wednesday.

“As immediate neighbors and fellow archipelagic states, the Philippines and Indonesia agreed to continue our cooperation on political and security matters,” President Marcos said as Indonesian President Joko Widodo began a three-day official visit in Manila.

“President Widodo and I had a fruitful and honest discussion on regional events of mutual interest, such as the developments in the South China Sea and ASEAN cooperation and initiatives. The Philippines and Indonesia affirmed our insistence on the universality of UNCLOS [the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea], which sets out the legal framework that governs all activities in the oceans and in the seas,” the President said.

In his statement, President Widodo emphasized the agreement to reinforce border cooperation, highlighting the importance of revising the Border Patrol Agreement and Border Crossing Agreement, settling Continental Shelf Boundaries, and enhancing defense cooperation, including defense equipment.

Under the Border Patrol Agreement and Border Crossing Agreement, the Philippines and Indonesia aim to outline the treatment for nationals of each country who are illegally in the other’s territory.

Additionally, it establishes a reciprocal and simplified system for the entry and exit of nationals residing in the specified border area, facilitating limited-duration visits between the corresponding border areas.

On regional security, President Widodo and President Marcos agreed on the significance of strengthening ASEAN unity and upholding the principles of international law to position ASEAN as a positive force for peace, stability, and prosperity.

One significant initiative involves the progress in implementing bilateral priorities outlined in the Philippines-Indonesia Plan of Action 2022-2027, signed during President Marcos’s state visit to Indonesia in September 2022.

The plan covers a broad spectrum of cooperation, encompassing political and security matters, border issues, regional and global concerns, economic cooperation, sociocultural and people-to-people exchanges, as well as judicial and consular matters between the two nations.

During his meeting with Widodo at Malacañang, the President underscored the need for the Philippines and Indonesia to stand united in confronting regional challenges.

“As neighbors, we must remain united in addressing the many challenges that our region now faces,” President Marcos said.

Highlighting the significance of Philippines-Indonesia relations, Marcos emphasized the close friendship and regional partnership grounded in commonalities of geography, history, and culture.

In response, President Widodo pledged to collaborate closely with the Philippines, particularly in defense and security, trade, and infrastructure development.

Widodo sought the President’s support for the Philippine acquisition of new naval warfare aircraft from Indonesia.

On the economic front, Widodo affirmed Indonesia’s commitment to maintaining open market access for the Philippines’ agricultural commodities.

He also sought President Marcos’ support for expediting the groundbreaking of the North-South Commuter Railway Project, a joint venture between Indonesia and the Philippines.

Expressing gratitude for the warm welcome, President Widodo noted that the Philippines was his first destination in 2024, marking the 75th year of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

He emphasized his visit’s significance in celebrating and further strengthening the ties between the Philippines and Indonesia.

The Philippines and Indonesia formalized a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on energy cooperation, underscoring a shared commitment to ensuring energy security for both nations.

Marcos and Widodo witnessed the signing of the MOU on energy cooperation that took place at the President’s Hall in Malacañang Palace.

During a joint press briefing, President Marcos expressed satisfaction with the MOU, which resulted from successful negotiations between the Philippines and Indonesia facilitated by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources of Indonesia.

Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla, in a separate statement, said the MOU reinforces and updates the longstanding energy cooperation between the Philippines and Indonesia.

“On the part of the Philippines, it is an offshoot of our President’s efforts to achieve higher energy security through energy diplomacy,” Lotilla said.

The MOU outlines provisions for facilitating cooperation between the business sectors of both countries, particularly during periods of critical supply constraints on energy commodities such as coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Lotilla said the Philippines has been a dependable market for Indonesian coal, accounting for nearly 98 percent share of total Philippine coal imports in 2022, consistently increasing from 88 percent in 2017.

He said that following the failure of Indonesian coal mines to provide adequate supply to their domestic power plants and markets, the Indonesian government issued a coal export ban in January 2022.

This forced countries like the Philippines to scramble for alternative sources of coal and caused coal prices to spike.

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