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DND Takes Part in 2016 Shangri-la Dialogue

The ASEAN defense ministers in their meeting last May in Ventianne, Laos approved the Philippine proposal to establish an ADMM-Plus Experts Working Group on Cybersecurity. This working group is meant to promote among ASEAN defense establishments practical cooperation on adressing cybersecurity challenges, leveraging on the diverse national capacities of the 18 ADMM-Plus members.

This was shared by Assistant Secretary Raymund Quilop in reaction to the point raised regarding the necessity of platforms
for cybersecurity cooperation during the Shangri-la Dialogue's special session on identifying common cybersecurity challenges.

First held in 2002, the Shangri-la Dialogue now on its 15th year has evolved to be an institutionalized platform for defense diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific, with countries from Europe participating in the dialogue. Complexity of challenges, military competition, uncertainty of the times and challenges of conflict resolution are themes that run in four of the five plenary sessions. Even the last plenary session on pursuing security objectives discussed various security challenges particularly the extremism and radicalism perpetuated by ISIL specifically the problem of returning fighters.

Two key issues took the limelight in all the discussions: the South China Sea issue and North Korea's nuclear tests and program. While almost all country speakers stressed that all parties to UNCLOS are bound by the Arbitration decision which is expected to be issued soon by the tribunal, China argued that it will not abide by the decision and its non-participation in the process is in accordance to international law given the reservation it manifested when it signed to the convention in 2006. According to China, It made reservations as to territorial disputes being brought within the ambit of UNCLOS. It must be stressed though that the PH arbitration case is not about territorial jurisdiction but on maritime entitlements, hence the reservation does not apply.

The narrative on the South China Sea is slowly evolving and being moved away from being more of a matter of maritime dispute to an issue of strategic competition between and among major powers. As Singapore's Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen acknowledged, the South China Sea has become a platform for major power competition to play out.

On North Korea's nuclear program, there were debates as to the suitability of putting in place the US ballistic missile defense system to protect South Korea. While the system is seen by some as necessary to deter North Korea and convince it to forego its nuclear program, China and Russia think it will unduly disturb the strategic balance in the region and would undermine regional stability, with Russia cautioning that the US should not be allowed to deploy more missiles in the region considering that missile reduction is a cornerstone of the strategic arms reduction treaty between the US and Russia.

Undersecretary for Defense Policy Pio Lorenzo Batino led the PH delegation, which included Asec Quilop, Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista from the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace, and the acting Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines General Glorioso Miranda.