CLARK FREEPORT -- Defense ministers of the member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) issued Monday a joint declaration at the conclusion of the 11th Asean Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM).

“The declaration adopts the three-year work program of ADMM to outline the direction of ADMM cooperation for 2017-2019 while building on the previous work programs of the ADMM particularly from 2014-2017,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

It likewise reaffirms the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety, and freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea as well as the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“It emphasizes the importance of self-restraint in the conduct of all activities as well as the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in its entirety and welcome the conclusion and adoption of the framework of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea,” Lorenzana added.

The declaration welcomes the adoption and supports the implementation of Standard Operating Procedures for Regional Standby Arrangements and Coordination of Joint Disaster Relief and Emergency Response Operations (SASOP) Chapter VI on the Facilitation and Utilization of Military Assets and Capacities with an end goal of contributing to the implementation of the “ASEAN Declaration on One ASEAN, One Response: ASEAN Responding to Disasters as One in the Region and Outside the Region.”

Moreover, it shall endorse the ADMM-Plus Standard Operating Procedure on Multinational Coordination Center for submission to the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management as inputs to SASOP Chapter VI.

The defense ministers likewise welcome the operationalization of the ASEAN Direct Communications Infrastructure in the ADMM process to provide a permanent, rapid, reliable, and confidential means by which they could communicate and shall likewise promote the operationalization of the ASEAN Center of Military Medicine based on the Terms of Reference that was adopted by the ADMM in 2016.

“We will also adopt the Concept Paper on Guideline for Maritime Interaction to help prevent untoward incidents that might occur in and over the South China Sea due to miscalculation and establish an ad hoc working group to develop guidelines on air encounters between military aircraft,” Lorenzana added.

The ministers agreed to work together to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations in accordance with the Asean Convention on Counter-Terrorism and the Asean Comprehensive Plan of Action on Counter-Terrorism as well as identify ways to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation among Asean defense establishments.

And lastly, they expressed grave concerns over the escalation of tensions in the Korean Peninsula including the testing and launching by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) of intercontinental ballistic missiles in addition to its previous nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches.

The ministers strongly urged North Korea to immediately comply with its obligations arising from all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

Established in 2006, ADMM is the highest defense consultative and cooperative mechanism in the Asean.

It aims to promote mutual trust and confidence through greater understanding of defense and security challenges, as well as enhancement of transparency and openness among the 10 ASEAN member-states namely Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.

ADMM-Plus is a platform for Asean Defense Ministers to engage their counterparts from the Plus countries namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia and Unites States.

With the establishment of the ADMM-Plus in 2010, the ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Groups on humanitarian assistance and disaster response, maritime security, counter-terrorism, military medicine, peacekeeping operations, humanitarian mine action (demining) and cybersecurity were organized to promote practical cooperation that would enhance the ADMM-Plus members’ defense and military interoperability and capability. (PR)