PH, Indonesia agree on maritime boundaries

The Philippines and Indonesia have finally determined the boundaries that are acceptable for both nations. This historical agreement on a provisional maritime boundary line was reached during a bilateral meeting between Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa in Jakarta Monday. Del Rosario and Natalegawa expressed hope that the treaty will be signed by the leaders of the two countries during the scheduled visit of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Manila in May. With the agreement reached, Indonesia and the Philippines will eventually draw a common maritime boundary through the northern part of the Celebes Sea and the corridor to the Pacific Ocean that lies between Indonesia’s Pulau Miangas and the Philippines’ Sarangani Islands. The Philippines and Indonesia have so far agreed to delimit each other’s Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ). The delimitation of maritime boundaries in Southeast Asia, which has often been described as the “scene of very active and innovative ocean boundary diplomacy,” is a particularly critical process since majority of states in the region are either coastal or archipelagic. Nine out of the ten Southeast Asian states--Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore--are coastal States, and two of these states — the Philippines and Indonesia — are among the world’s largest archipelagic nations. The complex geography of Southeast Asia has meant that all Southeast Asian waters are enclosed either as territorial seas, exclusive economic zones, or archipelagic waters. This has resulted in a multitude of overlapping claims, some of which have caused tensions in bilateral relations and undermined peace and stability in the region. Bilateral negotiations are by far the primary and favored method of handling maritime delimitation disputes between states. During their meeting, the two foreign ministers also expressed commitments to enhance cooperation in the areas of economy, defense, politics and socio-cultural and consular affairs. They likewise signed an agreement on mandatory consular notification and assistance, which obligates both governments to immediately inform their partnering government whenever a citizen of one country is undergoing judicial process in the other country. Del Rosario also expressed the country’s gratitude for Indonesia’s efforts to help the people affected by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) late last year. “We are continually receiving aid from the Indonesian Red Cross and contributions from Indonesian citizens,” he said during the joint press briefing held following the bilateral talks. “We are deeply moved by your overwhelming generosity.” The Philippine foreign affairs chief also expressed gratitude for Indonesia’s participation in the crafting of a peace agreement related to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Natalegawa recently said the Indonesian government was ready to facilitate another round of peace talks. Indonesia, according to a Foreign Ministry statement, is expecting more investment from the Philippines, particularly related to transportation, connectivity, infrastructure and fishery projects under the 2011-2025 Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development (MP3EI). The government is also hoping for a bigger flow of tourists from the Philippines. In the January-November 2013 period, about 117,000 tourists from the country visited Indonesia, more than 111,000 people in the same period in 2012. Two-way trade volume from January to November 2013 reached $4.25-billion with a surplus of $2.8-billion on the Indonesian side. It was higher than the $4.16 billion recorded during the same period in 2012.

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