By Zasika Musdi
His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, spoke on the need to meet modern security threats with professional planning aimed at ensuring that all countries in the region were well prepared to respond efficiently and effectively to any emergency.
His Royal Highness said this in a sabda during discussions at the plenary session of the Asean Regional Forum (ARF). Earlier, HRH attended the ARF Retreat in the morning at the Philippine International Convention Centre in Manila.
The ARF Foreign Ministers discussed a wide range of regional and international security matters, including ways to enhance cooperation.
His Royal Highness later joined other Foreign Ministers at the closing ceremony of the 40th Asean Ministerial Meeting at the Convention Centre.
Their Royal Highnesses, Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, and Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Zariah, left Manila for Brunei Darussalam later in the evening.
ARF will be able to play a more active role in preventing conflicts, officials said after members adopted rules for a quick-reaction group to respond to emergencies and a framework on counterterrorism, AP reported.
Ministers adopted operating rules for the rapid-response group, called "Friends of the ARF Chair", and endorsed a Cooperation Framework on Counterterrorism and Transnational Crime.
"Now ARF has a mechanism to perform preventive diplomacy work," said M C Abad, an ARF official. "ARF will not just be conference diplomacy. It will have a mechanism to do things that cannot wait for the next meeting."
The cooperation framework, which covers 11 areas including transport security, information exchange and management of the impact of terrorist acts, gives ARF "a comprehensive and coherent programme of work in the field of counterterrorism and transnational crimes," he added.
The "Friends of the ARF Chair" - three foreign ministers who will assist the ARF chairman in dealing with regional and international problems - is an ad hoc group that will be set up by the ARF chairman for specific tasks, such as in times of emergency and threats to regional peace and stability.
Meanwhile, terrorist attacks in Asia have declined in the past three years, but deeper collaboration was needed to protect the region from continuing threats, ministers attending the forum said.
With the South Korean hostage-taking in Afghanistan and the North Korean nuclear crisis taking the spotlight in the ARF, the ministers agreed that cooperation in fighting terrorism must be strengthened in the region and around the world.
They "reaffirmed their commitment to prevent, suppress and eliminate international terrorism," according to a statement issued at the end of the daylong forum in Manila.
Philippine Foreign Minister Alberto Romulo said Asean was committed to "stand together against terrorism" as they deepened their cooperation with international partners.
He said they would fight terrorism with "hard military power" as well as "soft power" through inter-faith dialogue, humanitarian assistance and cultural awareness programmes.
The ministers noted that the "proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, including its potential use by terrorists, remained a serious security challenge".
They also expressed concern over the continued problem of illegal use of small arms and light weapons.
"The ministers reaffirmed the importance of strengthening controls of the transfer of man-portable air defence systems to help prevent these weapons from being acquired or used by terrorists or non-state groups," the statement added.
- Borneo Bulletin
(3rd August 2007)