‘PHL and Indonesia had shown the world that bilateralism works’

(Speech delivered by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. at the Embassy of Indonesia’s Gala Dinner in honor of the 70th anniversary of Philippines-Indonesia Diplomatic Relations on December 7, 2019, at the Grand Ballroom, Grand Hyatt Manila)

Selamat malam.

I AM privileged to join you tonight in celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Indonesia, and to convey the warmest greetings of His Excellency President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, on this happy occasion.

In the Philippines’s pantheon of diplomatic relationships, our relations with Indonesia is unique for the genuine sense of kinship and fraternity, the long historical origins of our friendship, and the concrete help Indonesia has repeatedly extended to the Philippines in those places where it has been most vulnerable to violent threats to the unity and territorial integrity of the Philippine Republic. Time and again, Indonesia has sent forces to deflect threats against the Philippines and resisted the religious temptation to enable those threats by helping us defeat them. Through the wars of secession, Indonesia gave us hardly any verbal expressions of concern. It just went in and helped us fight our enemies. No talk, all action. Thank you, Indonesia.

The ties that bind our maritime nations have existed for millennia, born out of geography, contacts through trade, migration, assimilation and intermarriage—and a natural affinity derived from linguistic, cultural and religious ties and, above all, from the shared defense of each other in the past and concrete mutual assurances of regional security in the present and future.

Indeed, look at a map. What countries ring the South China Sea—locking in expansion and fending off interference from the outside? And yet never allowing their geographic advantage to be used to interfere with the internal dynamics of the region. The two true archipelagos of the globe surround Asia like ramparts; discouraging temptations of aggression. When the Indo-Pacific Strategy was first broached in the United Nations, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said: “We will not accept a policy of containment.” I was astonished at the brilliance and perspicacity of her instant reaction. I changed my views immediately; I am a quick study.

It was inevitable that our archipelagos, being at the crossroads of Asia and blessed with a wealth of resources—Indonesia rather more than the Philippines, would figure prominently in the Age of Exploration and the era of Western colonization that followed in short order. Being under different colonial masters placed us on diverging historical and cultural paths for centuries; but this same fate shaped the ideas and independence movements that would give birth to the modern-day nation states that today constitute the Philippines and Indonesia.

Seventy years ago, on November 24, 1949, our countries finally renewed and formalized what was in truth an abiding and uninterrupted natural friendship between our peoples by forging formal, diplomatic ties. This inherent amity was promptly confirmed when, in 1951, then President Sukarno of the new Republic of Indonesia became the first foreign Head of State to visit the Philippines, then under President Elpidio Quirino, a leader who made foreign policy a defining aspect of his presidency and in whose watch our Armed Forces started in earnest to establish footholds in the waters of the South China Sea, even as the Asian mainland was wracked with one war after another. Sukarno was a Filipino idol, whose name was top of mind.

The succeeding seven decades would see our countries deepen this friendship, and broaden the expanse of our fruitful cooperation. We became not just committed bilateral partners but, as important regional players, placing Southeast Asia on the path of integration with precursor organizations that would ultimately give rise to our Asean Community.

Today, the Philippines and Indonesia, archipelagic states representing two of Asean’s fastest-growing economies, are not just partners in mutual development but also in advancing the cause of democracy, freedom especially of religious
conscience, and the rule of law.

Earlier this year, I had the honor of affirming this partnership with Foreign Minister Retno when we made history anew in Bangkok with the exchange of ratification instruments to usher into effectivity the Philippines-Indonesia Agreement on the Delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone Boundary. Weeks later, we jointly deposited the agreement at the United Nations in New York, to show the world that it is possible to settle maritime borders peacefully and in accord with international law.

Agreement had come so naturally that I myself did not fully appreciate the historical significance of what we had done; not until former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd asked me at the Asia Society how tensions might be removed and differences settled if I truly believed that territory is an emotional issue, impervious to bargaining and resolution. I was speechless for a moment; then he added, “But you just did it—with Indonesia.”

And it struck me. “But it took so long,” I replied. And he rejoined, “And yet you never came to blows.” Indeed, diplomacy is time.

The Philippines and Indonesia had shown the world that, with sincerity and mutual respect—and no underhanded tactics and double-talk—bilateralism works.

With seven decades of nothing but unparalleled friendship, with no major disputes between us, the Philippines and Indonesia now turn our gaze toward the next seven decades. Our leaders, President Duterte and President Jokowi—by their guiding stewardship and personal friendship (a true and deep personal friendship)—have infused our relationship with greater vigor and placed it onto the inexorable path of more concord, harmony and mutual growth.
Terima kasih!


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