Secretary Gazmin Speaks at the 2012 Shangri-la Dialogue

Speaking in one of the special sessions of the Shangri-la Dialogue last 2 June 2012, Philippine Secretary of National Defense Voltaire T. Gazmin emphasized the Philippines’ call for for a peaceful resolution of the West Philippine Sea issue specifically the current situation over the Bajo De Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal). In the session on “Containing the South China Sea Disputes”, he also elaborated on the three interlocking approaches that the country is pursuing: diplomatic engagement with China, multilateral efforts through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and possibility of legal arbitration through international bodies such as the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). In the course of the discussions, it became clear that most participants agree with the country’s call for a rules-base, international-law anchored approach to the issue, with one asking the speaker from China why Beijing refuses to bring the matter to an international arbitration procedure.

Secretary Gazmin had the opportunity to discuss issues with US Department of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta after he spoke in the first plenary session on US rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific, where he gave a clear picture as to the direction of the US role in the region, emphasizing that the US is a “resident Asia-Pacific power” and not an external power to the Pacific. In their meeting, Secretary Panetta commended the Philippines efforts to manage the situation over Bajo De Masinloc and to resolve the current impasse in accordance to internationally accepted principles.

The Philippine defense chief also had bilateral talks with his counterparts from Australia, New Zealand and Singapore as well as with Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman.

More formally known as the IISS Asia Security Summit, the Shangri-la Dialogue provides a venue for senior defense and military officials, academics, and research firms and organizations to discuss and examine various defense and security concerns. It has become recognized as a key event for defense and security policy in the region with the high-level participation of most Asia-Pacific countries.