The Philippines urged Southeast Asian countries and dialogue partners to heighten cooperation and “not lose sight” of common areas of concern such as transnational crime, terrorism, and maritime security even with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Foreign Affairs Acting Undersecretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro issued the call during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Regional Forum (ARF) meeting of senior officials held on Tuesday, June 29.ADVERTISEMENT
“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,” Lazaro was quoted as saying in a statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs issued Thursday.
The ARF is a platform for dialogue and practical cooperation among 27 participating countries.
Participants include Asean member countries and dialogue partners such as Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Korea, Russia, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste, and the United States.
“Our work against transnational crime, particularly terrorism and cybercrime, must remain strong and constant even in the midst of the pandemic,” Lazaro also said.
For its part, Lazaro said the Philippines continues to engage with its partners in countering transnational crime on top of the implementation of domestic measures, including the Anti-Terror Law and the development of the National Cybersecurity Plan 2022.
Further, she said the Philippines remains committed to a law-based approach in the South China Sea, including the assertion of the 2016 Arbitral Award.
She likewise expressed the “serious concerns” raised by the Philippines over recent developments in the South China Sea, including “infringements on its sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction.”
Lazaro, meanwhile, told the forum that the “step-by-step resumption” of the negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea is ongoing despite the setbacks caused by the pandemic.
Lazaro said the meeting of Asean-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, which was done physically last June 7 in Chongqing, China, is a “testament to the will of Asean and China to hurdle obstacles posed by the pandemic.”