SENATE President Juan Miguel Zubiri, addressing international lawmakers attending the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF) in Manila, prodded the visiting delegates to “opt for cooperative security approach.”
The Senate leader suggested such option is “both inclusive and non-confrontational to resolve conflicts.”
Addressing the Asia-Pacific lawmakers at the APPF opening Thursday at the Philippine International Convention Center, Zubiri said, “We are again living in a time of relative instability [as] conflicts are unfolding on multiple fronts, with aggression and intimidation taking precedence over the principles of the rule of law.”
Zubiri’s call for regional peace cooperation found echoes in a speech by the Senate Defense committee, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who urged delegates to address “a matter of grave concern that requires our collective attention.”
He said lawmakers must “raise serious concerns over recent developments in the West Philippine Sea, which refers to parts of the South China Sea over which the Philippines has sovereign rights, and jurisdictions, as they have the potential to undermine the peace and stability that our nations have collectively worked towards over the years.”
As representatives of their respective peoples, the delegates must respond to the issue with “the utmost diplomatic care and urgency.”
He claified, however, that “the concerns we express are not intended to assign blame or take sides. Instead, they reflect our shared commitment to upholding a rules-based international order. It is through these rules that we can navigate the complexities of competing claims and interests in a manner that fosters understanding and preserves regional stability.”
For the sake of “over 4.6 billion people in our region,” Estrada said parliamentarians must “acknowledge the significance of dialogue and diplomacy in resolving conflicts and mitigating tensions. The Asia Pacific region has had its fair share of historical disputes and territorial conflicts. However, it is through open and respectful communication that we can find common ground and build bridges towards lasting peace.”
He noted that the Philippine government, “under the leadership of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., has been consistent in trying to address the issues surrounding the West Philippine Sea through diplomatic means, in the hope of decreasing tension in the area. President Marcos met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the sidelines of the recently concluded APEC Summit in San Francisco, California. They affirmed that the situation in the South China Sea does not comprise the entirety of Philippines-China relations, and that maritime issues should be managed properly.”
‘Apec of parliamentarians’
The APPF, which Zubiri earlier dubbed “the Apec of parliamentarians,” is a multilateral parliamentary forum between member-countries in the Asia-Pacific region, covering Southeast Asia, Oceania, Northeast Asia, and the Americas.
More than 200 parliamentarians from 19 countries in the Asia-Pacific, with the Philippines as the host country for the second time, gathered to discuss political and security issues, economic and trade matters, and regional cooperation.
These cover everything from climate action to transnational crimes, from universal health care to critical infrastructure, Zubiri said.
“I believe that humanity is once again at a turning point in history, and we need to make a critical choice. Do we decide to soar together as a one, united Asia-Pacific region? Or do we allow ourselves to spiral into distrust and disarray?” Zubiri warned.
“Let us be better neighbors. Let us opt for a collaborative security approach that is both inclusive and non-confrontational. As Parliamentarians, let’s steer our governments toward the pathway of peace,” Zubiri told lawmakers from the different countries.
With the theme “Building Resilient Partnerships: Advancing Peace, Prosperity and sustainability in the Asia Pacific,” the delegates are expected to come out with resolutions on several issues.
Aside from Philippine legislators, lawmakers from Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mexico, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russian Federation, Thailand, and Vietnam joined the conference.