Monday, June 13, 2011

Shangri-la Dialogue, Better than War

Shangri-la Dialogue, Better than War
By Erick A. San Juan

The three-day Shangri-La Dialogue in its tenth year has served its goals of building confidence and fostering practical security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region where defense ministers, permanent heads of Ministries and military chiefs of 28 major Asia-Pacific states attended and participated in dialogues.

The idea for the forum came from its current director-general and chief executive, Sir John Chipman in 2001. Since then, the said event is held every year by London's International Institute for Strategic Studies, and assisted by the Singaporean Defense Ministry. Hence, the forum gets its name from the Shangri-La hotel in Singapore where it has been held since 2002.

The world has gone through world wars and many regional wars and had experienced its devastating effects to humanity. That is why the Shangri-la Dialogue, which is one of the largest and most important security mechanism in the Asia-Pacific region has taken that giant step forward towards peace and security in the region. Amidst rising tensions in the South China Sea, defense ministers of the region, with all diplomacy, did their part as advocates of peace in order to come out with solutions during bilateral meetings.

But this year’s security forum can only do so much and the rest of the task at hand is left with each delegate to accomplish with mutual respect and cooperation with the rest of the countries in the region.

There are still so many issues that are left to be resolve by each country and one of these is the disputed areas in the South China Sea. Our Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin did his part by reminding our neighbors in the region that every dispute can be solve, no matter how complicated, as long as there is respect for each other and bullying one’s neighbor will not help.

According to recent reports, the Department of Foreign Affairs reiterated the Philippines’ rules-based approach to ending the dispute.

It has proposed the concept of a Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation in which disputed territories could be recognized from undisputed areas as provided under international law.

“The Philippines has offered a specific framework for the resolution of differences and the pursuit of cooperation in the form of the ZOPFFC,” said Malaya.

In the ZOPFFC, the disputed islands could be “enclaved” by segregating them and adjacent waters from the rest of the waters of the South China Sea.

The DFA has said the enclaved area could be designated as a Joint Cooperation Area where joint activities could be conducted, such as marine scientific research, search and rescue operations, oil spill preparedness and conservation projects. (Phil. Daily Inquirer 6/11/2011)

This new proposal by our government, together with the efforts in the Shangri-la Dialogue only proves that there are more choices in finding solutions to any disputes. Any endeavor that will create more tensions and word wars among the concerned countries in the region should not be permitted so that peace will reign in the area.

Despite the belief of some quarters that no amount of diplomatic efforts will stop parties of interests from intrusion into our territories, it is very clear that the likes of the Shangri-la Dialogue and other undertakings promoting peace are far much better than engaging in a regional war, and maybe another world war in the process.

Let us remain vigilant and hope that every nation in the region will adhere to peaceful means.

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