MANILA, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) — The 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its dialogue partners China, Japan and South Korea on Thursday called for closer regional cooperation to combat terrorism and violent extremism.
“(The ministers) were unanimous in acknowledging the threats of violent extremism, (that) this is a clear and present threat already,” Philippine Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy, told a news conference at the close of the 11th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crimes (AMMTC) and the second Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Rise of Radicalization and Violent Extremism (SAMMRRVE).
“It was agreed that there should be a closer coordination (and) cooperation with regards to the efforts on counterterrorism, (including) information sharing, exchange of best practices, training, capability building and even (sharing) of resources. (We) talked about improvement in the capability of member countries to combat terrorism,” said Cuy, who chaired the meetings.
Cuy said that the ministers also stressed the need to end the ongoing conflict in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, fearing the terrorists involved in the nearly four-month war might spill over to neighboring Asian countries.
“Actually, the dialogue partners are concerned that the situation in Marawi has taken this long, and they are worried that there might be some nationals from their country who might be involved,” Cuy said, adding that these countries are closely monitoring the situation.
He said the ministers expressed hope that the Marawi conflict will be resolved with “the soonest possible time.”
Moreover, Cuy said they agreed to monitor the movement of suspected foreign terrorist groups or individuals who might attempt to enter the region, including the monitoring of suspicious financial transactions.
Cuy said the ministers also showed “strong commitment to collectively addressing issues that threaten the peace, security and stability of the region by adopting two landmark documents – the Manila Declaration to Counter the Rise of Radicalization and Violent Extremism, and ASEAN Comprehensive Plan of Action on Counter-terrorism to deal with current challenges confronting the region.
On cybercrime, Cuy said the ministers also endorsed the ASEAN Declaration to Prevent and Combat Cybercrime, which includes measures such as acknowledgment of the importance of harmonization of laws related to cybercrime and electronic evidence, and encouragement of ASEAN member states to explore the feasibility of acceding to existing regional and international instruments in combating cybercrime, to name a few.
Cuy said the ministers also adopted the terms of reference of the AMMTC to facilitate the regional cooperation and coordination in preventing and combating transnational crime in the region, including arms smuggling, drug trafficking, trafficking in persons especially women and children, money laundering, sea piracy, cybercrime, economic crimes, environmental crime, intellectual property theft, and smuggling of cultural property.
The disastrous Marawi siege by IS-inspired militants since May has dragged on for nearly four months now, in which nearly 900 people have been killed, including 673 militants, 47 civilians killed by the terrorists, 149 soldiers and policemen.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said IS militants from neighboring Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East are helping the local extremists in a bid to establish an IS caliphate in the region.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.