S'pore, Manila to hold annual defence talks

S'pore, Manila to hold annual defence talks
Singapore Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen

Singapore and the Philippines have agreed to hold an annual "bilateral defence policy dialogue" starting next year, as South-east Asia grapples with the growing dangers posed to the region by Muslim extremists, national disasters and transnational crimes.

"The overall goal and the outcome that we desire is better bilateral defence relationships because we recognise that there are many security challenges that we now face," Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said at a news briefing in Manila yesterday.

"Whether it's terrorism, whether it's dealing with natural disasters, whether it's dealing with cyber issues, whether it's dealing with piracy, it is transnational and no single country has the wherewithal to be able to meet all of them all the time, and sharing of information is critical," he said.

Dr Ng said the Philippines will host the first defence dialogue next year. Singapore will then host it the following year.

It will be held on a "deputy secretary level", he said.

"This is a significant commitment, and one that will help us… move our bilateral defence relationship a step further," said Dr Ng.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino first broached the idea of a defence dialogue during a state visit by Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam to the Philippines in April this year.

Dr Ng is in the Philippines for an introductory visit, Singapore's Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

Dr Ng said he and Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin agreed that closer defence ties should allow both Singapore and the Philippines to deal more effectively with the threat posed to South-east Asia by militants linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is waging a bloody civil war to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East.

The Abu Sayyaf terror group, which has recently been preying on tourists and traders in Sabah, has also taken on ISIS' mantle.

It has threatened to execute two German hostages it kidnapped in April unless Germany ceases its support for United States-led strikes on ISIS targets.

Dr Ng said he and Mr Gazmin also touched on the issue of the South China Sea. He said they agreed that a "quick resolution" of the so-called Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea "will add to stability and reduce the risk of mishaps and miscalculations".

The Philippines is locked in territorial disputes with China over large areas of the resource-rich South China Sea.

This article was first published on Sep 26, 2014.
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