Singapore and the Philippines to step up defence cooperation

10:59:00 PM
MANILA: Singapore and the Philippines have agreed to an annual defence dialogue at a senior official level to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation. A statement from the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said this was agreed upon as Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen met his counterpart, Philippine Secretary of National Defence Voltaire T Gazmin.

Following the visit of Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam to the Philippines in April, Dr Ng is in Manila for an introductory visit.

Dr Ng and Mr Gazmin's discussions focused on maintaining regional stability, which is threatened by disputes over the South China Sea involving the Philippines, China, and other ASEAN countries.

"We are not a claimant state. We have no vested interest on who wins what, but we do have a vested interest in preserving the stability of the region and we recognise that because of the South China Sea, it can destabilise the region," Dr Ng said.

He said Singapore would rather focus on building and adhering to the Declaration of Conduct signed by ASEAN members and China, in 2002. The declaration spells out what dispute claimants can and should not do. "We also agreed on the resolution of issues in South China Sea (through) diplomatic initiatives and not military ones," Dr Ng said.

Both countries have a long history of military engagement, including joint military exercises, which stopped about two decades ago. "Much has changed since events 20 years ago. There are new challenges. Geopolitics are different. It is important to refresh the relations and find firmer footing," he added.

He said the new challenges now include radical extremists like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He noted that the recent experience of Filipino peacekeepers who escaped rebels in Syria is instructive. Sharing information on combating extremists and terrorists will be among the aims of the bilateral defence policy dialogue starting 2015.

Both Dr Ng and Mr Gazmin reaffirmed the warm bilateral defence relations between the two countries, as well as the strong cooperation at multilateral fora such as the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus and the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Dr Ng also welcomed the Philippines' expression of strong support for a new regional disaster centre in Singapore - the Changi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Coordination Centre, MINDEF said. As part of his visit, Dr Ng visited the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

via #AseanMilitaryDefenseReview

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