President Joko Widodo holds a bilateral meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on the sidelines of the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok. Photo: Privacy.

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – Indonesia and the Philippines have agreed to implement a landmark deal that sets maritime boundaries in their overlapping areas. Two countries said they will begin to ratify a deal in August, the statement released by the Indonesian government, Sunday (06/23).

According to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the deal which was signed in May will booster economic ties by determining the limits of borders in the Mindanao and Sulawesi seas – marking at the end of 20 years of negotiation.

The implementation of the landmark agreement was tackled during a meeting between Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on the sidelines of the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, late Saturday.

“This ratification will provide legal certainty for law enforcement and increase maritime cooperation,” he said in an official statement.

He added: “Both leaders see this development as a clear demonstration of the strong and tight bond between Indonesia and the Philippines, which incidentally are celebrating their 70th anniversary of formal diplomatic and bilateral relations.”

The maritime boundary pact between the two nations could serve as a benchmark on how to peacefully resolve border disputes of countries.

The legal instrument would be “a good precedent” on how to address maritime concerns and settle disputes in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) baring in mind the archipelagic nature of the two countries which inherently shares common borders with many ASEAN member-states.

Aside from providing legal certainty on the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) boundary between the two countries, both leaders agreed that the agreement “promotes deeper cooperation in their respective maritime sectors and thus contributes to the prosperity and economic development of both countries and the larger region.”

Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi said the agreement is expected to take effect within this year. Apart from the maritime boundary pact, Duterte and Widodo also tackled trade concerns as well as peace and security issues during their bilateral meeting. The two sides also discussed, how to increase trade and investment of two countries.

Two leaders agreed to have more Indonesian market access for Agri-based products such as bananas, shallots, coconut products, food and beverages and industrial products such as auto parts, among others to grow more the Philippine exports. Indonesian products such as instant coffee, automotive and construction materials, on the other hand, continue to penetrate the Philippine market.

Subsequently, when meeting with the Prime Minister of Viet Nam Nguyen Xuan Phuc, President Widodo encouraged the completion of negotiations on the EEZ boundary between the two countries. He hoped, that these problems can be resolved immediately if it is not resolved, it will potentially cause problems.

“The recent incidents between the sea security authorities of the two countries have been one of the impacts. For that, I hope that you can instruct the Viet Nam technical team to be able to immediately finalize the EEZ negotiations,” said Widodo.

In addition, Widodo also held a bilateral meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and agreed to increase trade and investment cooperation and eliminate trade barriers between the two countries.

During the meeting, the two leaders specifically discussed the trade in two commodities, namely Crude Palm Oil (CPO) and rubber. Indonesia expressed its appreciation to Thailand for its support to Indonesia and Malaysia in combating discrimination against CPO.

For Indo-Pacific Cooperation, President Widodo expressed his appreciation for Thailand’s support for the ASEAN Outlook Concept on the Indo Pacific.

Widodo also conveyed the development of Rakhine State and emphasized the importance of Preliminary Needs Assessment (PNA) reports to be followed up immediately. Widodo stressed the importance of a better security situation at Rakhine State so that a voluntary, safe and dignified process of repatriation can be carried out.

The issue was again discussed when meeting the State Counselor of the Republic of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi. Widodo stressed that Indonesia was ready to again contribute to the follow-up to the recommendations of the PNA Report.

Finally, Widodo met with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Both discussed the annual meeting of the leaders of the two countries’ Annual Leaders Retreat, which will be held in Singapore in December 2019.  In the meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali on Oct. 11, 2018, both leaders encouraged the strengthening of economic cooperation between the two countries, especially in the investment sector.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: lexy@theinsiderstories.com

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