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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        9  March 2011

Philippine-Indonesian talks focus on security

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Indonesia and the Philippines on Tuesday agreed to step up cooperation in combatting terrorism and transnational crimes, the presidents of both countries said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, addressing a press conference after talks with his visiting Philippine counterpart, Benigno Aquino III, said fighting the threat of terrorism was high on their agenda.

The two heads of state also witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding focused on fighting terrorism and transnational crimes between their respective national police forces.

“Cooperation in confronting terrorism is important because our two countries are facing real, concrete terrorism threats,” Yudhoyono said. “Therefore, besides our respective national efforts, we must also work together.

“In Southeast Asia, terrorists and their leaders have high mobility,” he added. “The region must not become a safe haven for terrorism.”

As part of efforts to battle terrorism, the two leaders also agreed to speed up the delineation of the maritime boundary separating their states.

“The more effective our cooperation, the more effective our efforts to prevent terrorism,” Yudhoyono said.

Many of Indonesia’s terrorists spent time training or teaching in the southern Philippines, where Muslim guerrillas are fighting government forces. The movement of terrorists between Indonesia and the region has been difficult to control because of the porous nature of the sea border.

“The delineation of our maritime boundary will enhance our cooperation in so many fields, from protecting the marine environment to better efficiencies with regards to the security concerns of the region,” Aquino said.

Both presidents said they were looking forward to intensifying bilateral economic cooperation. The value of trade between the countries has increased significantly, from $2.9 billion in 2009 to $3.89 billion in 2010, official data showed.

Aquino also aired the possibility of joint exploration for oil near the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

“The idea has been proposed. Perhaps we should continue talks with other claimant countries,” he said. Several countries, including China, Vietnam and the Philippines, have overlapping maritime boundary claims in the region.

The two leaders also witnessed the signing of agreements on education and sports.

Aquino is scheduled to leave Indonesia for Singapore on Thursday.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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