Philippines and Indonesia agree to strengthen security cooperation

The two Nations "recognize the importance of solidarity as neighbours in addressing the numerous challenges" confronting the region.

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Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. look on before delivering a joint statement at the Malacanang Palace, in Manila, Philippines, January 10, 2024. Ezra Acayan/Pool via REUTERS

The presidents of the Philippines and Indonesia have agreed to enhance their collaboration in response to China’s aggression in the South China Sea and other security challenges. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his Indonesian counterpart, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, met in Manila on Wednesday to discuss security, economic issues, and various concerns.

“At the outset of this meeting, we recognize the importance of solidarity as neighbours in addressing the numerous challenges confronting our region,” stated Marcos.

Jokowi mentioned that his visit to the Philippines marked his first in 2024, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations and cooperation between the archipelagos. Jokowi is currently on a five-day tour of Southeast Asia, with planned visits to Vietnam and Brunei later in the week.

The meeting took place against the backdrop of escalating tensions in the South China Sea, where China’s increasingly assertive claims encompass most of the region, including areas traditionally considered within the territorial boundaries of Southeast Asian nations like the Philippines, Vietnam, and Brunei.

During a joint news conference, the presidents outlined the details of their security agreement. “As immediate neighbours and fellow archipelagic states, the Philippines and Indonesia have committed to sustaining our collaboration on political and security issues”, Marcos told reporters.

“President Widodo and I engaged in a productive and transparent dialogue concerning regional events of shared interest, including developments in the South China Sea and ASEAN cooperation and initiatives. Both the Philippines and Indonesia reiterated our steadfast adherence to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which establishes the legal framework governing activities in the oceans and seas.”

Jokowi mentioned that the neighbouring nations would also collaborate to fortify their borders.

“In the realm of politics and security, we have agreed to enhance border cooperation,” he noted, expressing the importance of expediting revisions to their border patrol agreement and reinforcing defence cooperation, encompassing the acquisition and exchange of defence equipment.

As founding members of ASEAN, alongside Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, both countries are part of a bloc that now consists of 10 members. However, ongoing challenges in Myanmar and issues in the South China Sea have tested the unity of ASEAN.

Jokowi underlined that he and Marcos concurred on the significance of bolstering ASEAN unity, emphasizing that the phrase is not mere rhetoric. He stressed the need for ASEAN to uphold international law principles and be a positive force for peace, stability, and prosperity.

Indonesia chaired ASEAN last year, and the Philippines is slated to assume the chairmanship in 2026.

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