Aquino hails close ties with Indonesia at Bali meet
BALI, Indonesia—President Benigno Aquino III boasted the strong and brotherly relationship between the Philippines and Indonesia at the Bali Democracy Forum on Friday, particularly about how the two governments amicably settled issues involving their maritime boundaries.
Speaking before international leaders, Aquino praised Indonesia’s outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for his leadership in the settlement of maritime disputes of the two neighbors against a backdrop of the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China over parts of the South China Sea.
“With his assuring leadership, our two nations were able to resolve in an amicable manner the issue concerning our maritime boundaries in the Mindanao Sea and the Celebes Sea, thus moving our nations forward with an even deeper trust in each other,” Aquino said.
Aquino co-chaired the two-day Bali Democracy Forum with Yudhoyono, who is to step down from office in a few days.
Timor-Leste’s Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and Brunei Darussalam’s Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah also delivered speeches at the forum.
The two-day forum at the Bali International Convention Center is held here annually to foster dialogue-based cooperation through experiences and best democratic practices in the Asia-Pacific region. It is now in its seventh year.
“President Yudhoyono’s commitment to the rule of law has likewise been crucial as we advance the peaceful and just resolution of disputes in the South China Sea,” Mr. Aquino said.
Amid the worsening row in the South China Sea, the Philippines has been soliciting support from other countries for its efforts to promote a rules-based approach in the settlement of maritime disputes in the region. Indonesia is one of its supporters.
In May this year, Aquino and Yudhoyono during the latter’s official visit to the Philippines, resolved their countries’ overlapping territorial boundaries through an agreement that ending a 20-year-old dispute.
Indonesia and the Philippines have been the closest of allies in Southeast Asia, and Aquino attributed this to the “common history and heritage as maritime peoples of Southeast Asia.”
He cited Indonesia’s support for the Philippines in its effort to establish a just and lasting peace in Mindanao.
Indonesia previously chaired key committees in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and mediated consultations between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front. Indonesia is also part of the International Monitoring Team in the negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
“To those who represent the different Asean states here today, all of us know full well that the collective growth of our citizenries may only be fulfilled in a regional context where our shared ideals and individual beliefs are respected by our partners,” Mr. Aquino said.
A representative from China was in the audience, along with hundreds of delegates from the Asia-Pacific region.
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