Speech at the 31st Annual Meeting of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum


November 24, 2023, PICC, Pasay City

Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed colleagues of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum, good morning. I stand before you today with a profound sense of responsibility and a shared commitment to addressing the critical challenges that confront our region.

A man of letters who goes by the name Albert Einstein once said that “peace cannot be kept by force; it can be achieved by understanding.” And I couldn’t agree more. 

As representatives of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum, we bear the weighty task of fostering cooperation, dialogue, and concerted action to promote regional peace and stability.

The Asia Pacific region, with its diverse cultures, histories, and economic landscapes, stands at a crucial juncture in history. The complex geopolitical dynamics and emerging global challenges necessitate a united and resolute response from our nations.

This annual gathering is a testament to the power of dialogue and collaboration, and it is within this spirit that I wish that the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum addresses a matter of grave concern that requires our collective attention.

As representatives of our respective governments, it is incumbent upon us to 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.

It is in our purview as representatives of the people to address this issue with the utmost diplomatic care and urgency.

Let us be clear – 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.

Today, I present a call to action to harness our collective strengths, wisdom, and diplomatic acumen in working collaboratively for the greater good of over 4.6 billion people in our region.

First and foremost, let us 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.

I urge each member to engage in dialogue actively, seeking understanding and cooperation, even in the face of differences.

It is through our collective diplomatic efforts that we can send a strong message of unity, urging all parties involved to prioritize dialogue over confrontation, and cooperation over competition. The Asia Pacific region has thrived when we have worked together, and it is in this spirit that we address the current challenges in the South China Sea.

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.

Interdependence among states is a fundamental aspect of international relations. The Philippines and Japan, both maritime nations, are currently working on a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) that will enhance their defense cooperation. 

The RAA will provide a legal framework for joint military exercises and operations, which will improve the military capabilities and interoperability of both nations. Once finalized, agreement is expected to be submitted to the Philippine Senate for concurrence. The RAA implementation will strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries, which aims to contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the region.

I also urge each delegate to urge their respective governments to affirm multilateralism. Cooperation between key nations can set an example and in turn encourage other states to likewise engage in collaborative security initiatives. It is in this light that we seek your support for the Philippines’ bid to the United Nations Security Council for the term 2027-2028. If elected as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, the Philippines will uphold the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes in advancing and maintaining international peace and security. 

Considering the enduring significance of peaceful dispute resolution mechanisms, I strongly recommend incorporating a promotion of the 1982 Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes. This historic declaration, endorsed by the international community, encapsulates principles that are vital in maintaining harmonious relations between nations.

The 1982 Manila Declaration underscores the importance of resolving disputes through peaceful means, such as negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. It also affirms that resorting to judicial processes should never be considered an unfriendly act. By highlighting the principles enshrined in this declaration, we can reaffirm our collective dedication to fostering international cooperation, preventing conflicts, and upholding the rule of law.

The Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum has the potential to drive positive change in our region. I urge every member to answer this call to action, to approach our shared responsibilities with commitment, and to work tirelessly to promote regional peace and stability. Together, we can establish a legacy of cooperation, understanding, and prosperity for future generations.

This year’s theme “Resilient Partnerships for Peace, Prosperity and Sustainability” encapsulates the essence of our collective aspirations and responsibilities as representatives committed to the well-being of our nations and the global community.

Resilient partnerships for peace are not just a necessity; they are the moral imperative of our time. Let us choose dialogue rather than conflict, cooperation instead of force or intimidation, and unity over division. Together, let us lay the foundations for a more secure, stable, and progressive Asia Pacific region.

May our deliberations in this forum be marked by a shared commitment to resilient partnerships, and may our actions reflect the enduring spirit of cooperation that defines our collective pursuit of a better world.

Thank you.