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ASEAN's security landscape tackled in "One ASEAN, Safer Together"

by Asia Society
23 June 2017

On Friday, June 16, key representatives of the Office of Foreign Affairs, Department of National Defense (DND), the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and the National Privacy Commission (NPC) convened. They spoke to government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, members of the business and academic communities, and, most importantly, members of the ASEAN community who gathered at the Asian Institute of Management to discuss the Political-Security Pillar of ASEAN. This forum, organized by the Presidential Communications Operations Office, in partnership with Asia Society Philippines and in collaboration with Asian Institute of Management, provided the audience with perspectives on the current state of ASEAN’s security in the face of the various forces that threaten it.

The speakers were optimistic. Asec. Helen De La Vega, Department of Affairs, touted ASEAN as “the driver of Asian prosperity.” The Department of National Defense’s Asec. Raymund Jose G. Quillop highlighted ASEAN’s opportunity to better use the armed forces to respond to humanitarian crises. Assistant Bureau Director Drusila Esther E. Bayate of BFAR championed current initiatives to monitor the fishing effort and prevent illegal fishing. Finally, the Privacy Commissioner and Chairman of the National Privacy Commission, Raymund Liboro, impressed the audience with the need to get up to the world’s data privacy standards.

Despite these leaps forward, there are challenges facing ASEAN security, among which are diverse legal systems, varying capabilities, unsustained projects, and unwillingness to tackle sensitive issues. However, it seems that the biggest threat to ASEAN security is lack of complete unity. Complex power dynamics undermine centrality and national interests override regional interests. Yet, ASEAN citizens should feel united by one fundamental desire. The ASEAN member states may not always agree with each other on what is the greatest threat to their safety, but they can agree that they would like to be safe.

“One ASEAN, Safer Together” was just the first in an ambitious three-part dialogue series that plans to tackle ASEAN’s Economic Pillar on July 11th and it’s Socio-Cultural Pillar on July 31st.
 

 

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Text by Zoe Schott

Photos by Bea Hidalgo