| Siti Hajar |
SECURING the region’s maritime area will be the focus over the next few days among multi-national defence organisations and experts from Asean member states as they deliberate and discuss ways to better preserve the welfare of those dependent upon the South China Sea.
The meeting aims to see further development of defence initiatives through a total of three main strategic pressing points, as emphasised by the Deputy Minister of Defence, Dato Paduka Awg Haji Mustappa bin Haji Sirat, during the opening of the 9th ADMM-Plus Expert Working Groups on Maritime Security Meeting (EWG MS) & Table Top Exercise (TTX) currently taking place at the Centrepoint Hotel in Gadong and scheduled to conclude tomorrow.
Addressing attendees from across the region, Dato Paduka Awg Haji Mustappa explained that the growing importance of the Asia Pacific maritime area and its subsequent vulnerability will need collaborative investments from stakeholders across the board in terms of capacity-building and joint exercises as well as advancing peace and stability.
The work to be done over the three days, he said, must not only contribute and add value to member countries’ efforts to develop their respective defence capacity, especially in addressing common challenges, but should also include determining and developing inter-operability and command structures among defence forces in the areas of, but not limited to, human assistance and disaster relief, peacekeeping operations as well as piracy and counter-terrorism.
Their meeting, he added, must also “meaningfully advance the cause of peace and stability in the region and service as the basis for preventive diplomacy by developing measures that prevent the eruption of conflicts including peace keeping and peace building”.
As the region witnesses what the deputy minister described as an unprecedented increase in human activity that promises significant economic prospects and greater prosperity for the future including enhanced cooperation in the field of defence, the role of the South China Sea in connecting the world with more than 60,000 vessels crossing the water ways on an annual basis and carrying a third of the global trade was highlighted.
The meeting, which will also see the TTX on Maritime Security that will shed light on various procedures of Search and Rescue and Vessel, Board, Search and Seizure as well as identifying existing publications, references and Standard Operating Procedures and documents, he said, is timely, “especially in light of the recent incidents that remind us of the vulnerability of our waters”, referring to the incidences of piracy.
“Being an important maritime region,” with Brunei Darussalam’s GDP also at stake, “and home to some of the busiest ports in the world, the rise in piracy incidents has added visible pressure on the need to be more vigilant and responsive to address these challenges,” he pointed out and expressed hope that the EWG on Maritime Security will explore effective mechanisms for multilateral cooperation and response against piracy in the future.
Apart from addressing updates on initiatives set by the ADMM-Plus Experts Working Group on Maritime Security that also covers proposals for online courses ADMM-Plus Maritime Security Community Information Sharing Portal, attendees will also be tasked with the following up on initiatives presented by New Zealand’s ADMM-Plus Future Leaders Programme.
As part of the wider framework of cooperation under the ADMM-Plus platform that was created in Hanoi four years ago, the EWG MS is among a string of other forms of cooperation including the fostering of practical cooperation on the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, Military Medicine, Counter Terrorism, Peacekeeping Operations and Humanitarian Mine Action.
“While maintaining its centrality, Asean and Asean’s dialogue relationship in the framework of ADMM-Plus have gained momentum as an integral part of the Asean process and to contribute to the realisation of the Asean Political-Security Community by 2015.”