By JOSE C. DE VENECIA JR.
FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE
(Remarks of Former Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives Jose de Venecia Jr., at the 10th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), Moscow, Russia on October 24-27, 2018)
On behalf of the Standing Committee of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), we are honored to add our welcome to those already expressed here for all the participants and guests at this 10th General Assembly of the ICAPP and its founding in Manila at the turn of the century, in the year 2000.
We thank the United Russia Party led by its Chairman and statesman, H.E. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, for hosting this conference. May we also greet H.E. Sergey Zheleznyak, Deputy Secretary General for International Affairs of the United Russia Party, and the other highly-regarded representatives of the United Russia Party in the ICAPP Standing Committee, our dear colleagues, H.E. Senator Andrey Klimov, and H.E. Senator Konstantin Kosachev, and their able Ambassador to Manila H.E. Igor Khovaev.
First and foremost, we thank the Russian Government and the Russian people led by H.E. President Vladimir Putin for his sustained remarkable leadership and for welcoming us to this great nation.
Embracing ICAPP’s original vision
We are gathered here in Moscow to celebrate another historic milestone for our International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), which now represents some 350 ruling, opposition and independent political parties from 52 countries in Asia.
Eighteen years ago in the year 2000, when forty Asian parties responded to our invitation to inaugurate the ICAPP in Manila, we laid out a vision in our opening remarks.
“To meet these challenges,” we said, “Asia’s leaderships must raise strong political will.
And this political will only the political parties can provide. For, while governments come and go, political parties remain.”
For emphasis we said, “By just agreeing to talk about shared solutions to problems that we have in common is already a major achievement in itself.”
We, the political parties of Asia, representing various persuasions and interests but undeniably those of the sovereign people, are gathered here in this same spirit, a spirit that will drive our endeavours and that our peoples will understand and, in the future, perhaps even acclaim.
For, together, we constitute an instrument for global peace, a vehicle for development, and a force to help solve the festering conflicts in our continent and in the global community.
There are much more protracted conflicts in Asia and the international community, and they are occurring in our seas and in our land borders.
A most practical solution in China Sea crises
On the maritime disputes, the one that is causing the greatest concern is in the South China Sea, sparked by the raging disagreement and conflicting sovereignty claims.
But we have repeatedly pointed out that there is the potential for a peaceful settlement.
China’s former great leader, Deng Xiaoping, the architect of its economic modernization, already laid out the best possible route that rival claimants China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and even Taiwan could take. It is to temporarily shelve the issue of sovereignty to pave the way for joint exploration and joint development of the disputed area’s hydrocarbon resources.
We had the privilege to officially propose in 2004-2005, then as Speaker of the House, the three-nation Seismic Agreement officially signed and undertaken by Manila, Beijing and Hanoi. Its aim was to assess the area’s potential for oil/gas exploration and development preparatory to drilling and create the environment for peace and cooperation in the China Sea. Hydrocarbon specialists of the three nations pronounced the area’s prospects “promising”.
Yes, now is the time to revive this agreement so rival nations could convert the area from one of conflict into a Zone of Peace, Friendship, Cooperation and Development. It is obvious as members of the ASEAN family that today, with China, we must find ways and means to jointly develop its oil/gas potential to help lessen our expensive common dependence on distant petroleum sources in the Persian/Arab Gulf of the Middle East.
Imagine the potential for peace in the heartland of the South China Sea if we undertake a joint development of its resources.
From an area of conflict, it could be transformed into a landscape and seascape of small seaports, airports and oil pipelines. Fishing villages and small tourism townships could rapidly rise and the contested areas could become the untrammelled passage way for global shipping, carrying more than 50 percent of the sea freight of the world.
This is perhaps the most realistic, most common-sensical solution to the problem of the Spratlys and the nearby Paracels, and which could be joined by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, and could also be the same formula for the dangerous problem between China and Japan in the tiny isles in the Senkaku Straits or Diaoyu in the East China Sea.
Resource-sharing by other countries
We take the opportunity to suggest that a history of conflict avoidance and joint development involving rival nations abound, perhaps as a result of intelligent, creative, humble and pragmatic diplomacy.
In the Norwegian Ekofisk oil field in the North Sea—which we visited when we were president of the Petroleum Association of the Philippines in the 1970s—the discovered oil in the sea goes even now to Norway and to Teeside, England and the natural gas goes to Germany.
The oil in the Caspian Sea countries is shared by Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan and others, because among them, there is demarcation and practical mutual understanding and goodwill.
Giant Australia and tiny East Timor share the hydrocarbons in the South Pacific in the waters just below Darwin and on the southeast side of Asia’s newest republic.
The 1989 Agreement between Malaysia and Thailand enabled them to jointly develop their disputed waters.
The Guinea-Bissau and Senegal Agreement of 1993 helped the concerned countries develop their disputed areas.
The border conflicts in Asia are more explosive, seemingly more intractable—between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, between India and China in their common mountainous region, between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh, and the continuing most difficult conflict between the Israelis and Arabs.
More than ever, the political parties of Asia, strongly support the revival of the Arab-Israeli peace process and indeed all similar initiatives in the conflict areas of the world.
Russia-China War averted
Dear friends: Might not the lessons of history again help us?
Even as dangerous a dispute as one between Russia and China, which led the two countries involving hundreds of thousands of their troops poised to pounce on each other in the brink of war, did not explode into full-scale bloody confrontation because of prudence.
As you may recall, the dispute was over a territory in the vicinity of the Ussuri (Wusuli) river in the eastern region of the then USSR, north of Vladivostok, in 1969.
The surprise 1992 Border Agreement between China and Russia rapidly resolved their territorial dispute in the Argun and Amur rivers, where China was granted control over Tarabahov Island (Yinlong Island) and about 50 percent of Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island (Heixiazi Island) near Khabarovsk.
Asia and the world must never forget one of the foremost leaders in Asian history, China’s “Paramount Leader” Deng Xiaoping and its President Yang Shangkun and the USSR’s President Boris Yeltsin for the classic Border Agreement between China and Russia that resolved what could have been an explosive and ruinous conflict between the two major powers, with Russia still supported by its satellite states at the time and both already wielding nuclear weapons.
As a young journalist at the time, we still remember with nostalgia the great relief of the international community over the classic truce in the Ussuri river.
Indeed, Excellencies, friends, the idea of “win-win cooperation”, of a pragmatic and intelligent sharing of areas and resources could help build a model for lessening tensions and solving conflicts, and avoiding the possibility of war in Asia’s manifold and dangerous flashpoints.
Revival of Six-Party Talks on North Korea
On the Korean peninsula, another major flashpoint, we also ask for the revival of the long stalemated Six-Nation Talks between South Korea, North Korea, the U.S., Japan, China, and Russia to consider reunification of the two Koreas, which is a most difficult but not an impossible task.
In a more recent time, unthinkable as it might have seemed then, the two Germanys and the two Vietnams eventually united by the will of their leaders and peoples, by good fortune, and by the inexorable forces of history.
(To be continued)