ASEAN Defense Ministers Go on a Retreat

Commending the ADMM for another productive year, Secretary of National Defense Voltaire T. Gazmin called on fellow defense ministers of ASEAN as they went on a retreat last November 19 to continue working together in addressing current and emerging security challenges. Recalling the various initiatives of the ADMM to include the establishment of a Direct Communication Link or hotlines among ASEAN defense ministries and conduct of HA/DR exercises to prepare Southeast Asia defense forces to respond to natural disasters, Secretary Gazmin emphasized the need for a proactive role in dealing with other security concerns such as pandemics, airspace security and resurgence of terrorism perpetuated by groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Amid the emergence of these issues, the formulation of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea should not be put on the backburner, with the crafting of a shared protocols of interaction among ASEAN navies as a useful initiative while foreign ministry officials are working on the said conduct of conduct, the Secretary advocated. ASEAN needs to maintain its role as the driving force behind regional mechanisms to address these challenges, with the streamlining of ASEAN-related organs and bodies perhaps a timely initiative in order for ASEAN to be more effective and efficient.

In the roundtable discussion between the ASEAN defense ministers and Japanese defense minister Akinori Eto that took place after the ADMM retreat, Secretary Gazmin welcomed the opportunity to exchange views with the Japanse defense minister and acknowledged Japan’s thrust to promote defense cooperation between Japan and ASEAN countries as well as Tokyo’s efforts to contribute in the capability development programs of Southeast Asian countries.

The ADMM retreat provided the ministers of defense of the 10 ASEAN members to exchange views on various international and regional issues as well as put forth proposals on how to move the ADMM process forward. It was also during the retreat when Myanmar, currently the ASEAN chair, handed over to Malaysia which will chair ASEAN for 2015, the responsibility of sustaining the progress of the ADMM. Joining Secretary Gazmin in this engagement was Assistant Secretary Raymund Quilop and Col Danilo Chad Isleta, the Senior Military Assistant to the SND.