AFP Chief calls for unity in 17th ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces Meeting

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay called for continuous unity and mutual trust among South East Asian military organization on Thursday, September 24 during the 17th ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces Meeting (ACDFM).

“ASEAN must be united, now more than ever, with the ongoing crisis brought about by the effects of COVID-19. As nations across the globe, not only within ASEAN, exert great efforts to fight this pandemic, the armed forces are being called by our respective governments to perform a great deal of supporting tasks,” Lt. Gen. Gapay said.

The ACDFM, formerly called ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces Informal Meeting (ACDFIM), is a venue for all ASEAN Chiefs of Defense to discuss and assess in a strategic, comprehensive, positive, and productive manner all prominent issues and concerns of mutual interests. This year marks the 17th iteration of the meeting with the theme “Military Cooperation for a Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN.”

The Vietnam People’s Army led by its Chief of General Staff, Senior Lieutenant General Phan Van Giang is this year’s Chairman. Due to the health and safety risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam People’s Army decided to hold the meeting through virtual conference.

Among the attendees were the Chiefs of Defense Forces of Brunei Darussalam, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Republic of Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the Republic of Singapore, and the Kingdom of Thailand.

In his speech, Lt. Gen. Gapay emphasized the Philippines’ commitment to counter-terrorism cooperation among ASEAN militaries, proposing his five-point plan to the ASEAN Military Operations Meeting. This include increased maritime border patrol operations; improvement of existing mechanism for bomb data exploitation; advocating peace-related initiatives through different social media platforms; having a common understanding in the implementation of respective Anti-Terrorism laws in the region; and have a common approach in response to the ASEAN Comprehensive Plan of Action on Counter-Terrorism.

The AFP Chief also underscored the country’s commitment to support the development of the ASEAN-China Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. He emphasized the importance of maintaining mutual trust and confidence in the region and to pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law.

“The Philippines supports the conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, which will be an important and lasting legacy of the ASEAN and China in ensuring peace, security and stability in the area,” Lt. Gen. Gapay said.

He noted that the flexibility of the ASEAN collaboration in both traditional and non-traditional challenges makes the partnership a strength in the region’s security arrangement and the ACDFM signify the strength of the countries’ unity.

“I am confident that we will achieve a strengthened security relationship towards a cohesive and responsive ASEAN. After all, we have a shared commitment and mutual responsibility in dealing with common regional security challenges and in preserving the region’s stability,” said the AFP Chief. AFP.MIL.PH