Former PH House Speaker points out need for multicultural understanding
SEOUL, Korea – On Monday, July 10, former Philippine Speaker Jose de Venecia identified various geo-political conflict areas in Asia that he said are capable of “difficult, dangerous but not impossible solutions” and of which “some have already been solved.”
Speaking at the first-ever meeting of various political parties from Asia and Europe here, de Venecia suggested that a “history of conflict avoidance and joint development involving rival nations abounds, perhaps as a result of intelligent, creative, humble and pragmatic diplomacy.”
The founding Chairman of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), Co-Chairman of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP), and President Rodrigo Duterte’s Special Envoy for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Intercultural Dialogue, named the following contested areas:
• The Spratlys, claimed by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan in the South China Sea through which more than 50 percent of global shipping pass; and the Paracel isles, claimed by both China and Vietnam over which they have already fought a war,and now occupied by China.
He said “joint exploration and development and conversion of the areas into a Zones of Peace, Friendship and Development are the only viable solution instead of constant tension, conflict and possible explosive war;”
• The controversial Japanese-held tiny isles in the Senkaku Straits or Daiyou to the Chinese in the East China Sea; he said the “only common-sensical solution is a joint-administration and sharing of the potential hydro-carbons in the vicinity;”
• The conflict over Kashmir where substantial forces between India and Pakistan still face each other and over which they have already fought three bloody wars over 60 years, with potential for nuclear exchange;
• The conflict, involving dangerous skirmishes in the long mountain borders between India and China, with large swathes of contested high ground; Sino-Indian wars were fought in 1962, 1965 and 1971;
• The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh;
• The protracted war in Afghanistan;
• The unfinished Arab-Israeli conflict, which is still awaiting final settlement and the establishment of a Palestinian homeland under a two-state solution;
• The continuing bloody wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and areas of West Africa, bedevilled by ISIS, Al Qaeda, and tribal wars.
De Venecia, a five-time Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives, said the most violent threats are still those mounted by the ISIS-ISIL following the extremists’ early territorial victories and launching of a Caliphate in large areas of Iraq and Syria.
Although routed in battle in recent weeks in the conquered territories, ISIS has since deployed deadly terrorist groups in various capitals of Europe and the U.S., and smaller units have shifted their activities to Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Malaysia, and an attack on Marawi City in Muslim Mindanao where it plans to establish a province of the Caliphate.
Sucessful geo-political settlements
De Venecia also listed some of the successful geo-political settlements that ended violent wars and brought about peace and development and which were settled by patient, pragmatic diplomacy:
• End of the dangerous dispute that led to a violent war between Russia and China; hundreds of thousands of troops faced each other in the Argun and Amur Rivers in the eastern region of the U.S.S.R., north of Vladivostok in 1969, until the 1992 a Border Agreement was signed between the two Communist states;
• Signing of the land border agreement of 1999 between Vietnam and China, although their dispute over the Paracels in the China Sea remains, following bloody fighting which dislodged the Vietnamese garrison troops from the Paracel isles;
• Oil in the Caspian Sea is shared by Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijian and others because, “among them there is demarcation and practical mutual understanding and goodwill;”
• The Norwegian-owned Ecofisk oil field in the North Sea which he visited in the 1970s when he was President of the Petroleum Association of the Philippines, flows its oil to Norway, to Teeside, England, and the natural gas to Bremen, Germany;
• Giant Australia, a continent, and tiny East Timor share the hydrocarbons in the South Pacific, in the waters just below Darwin on the southeast side of Asia’s newest republic;
• The 1989 Agreement between Malaysia and Thailand for a joint development of their disputed waters;
• The Guinea-Bissau and Seneghal Agreement of 1993, which helped them develop their disputed areas.
“Might not the lessons of history again help us?” de Venecia told the party leaders gathered for the First Asia-Europe Political Forum.
3RD Silk Road Route
De Venecia also said the ICAPP fully “supports China’s revival of the ancient overland Silk Road and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, which have the “potential to change this century, hopefully…a change for the better.”
He reiterated his proposal for a “Third Silk Route” that would “complement and extend” China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, passing through the Philippines.
The third route, he said, would extend from southern China’s Fujian province, cross to the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Timor Leste and across the South Pacific to Australia, New Zealand and into Chile, Brazil, Argentina, the Carribean and into Mexico and the US.
He described this as a “new circumnavigation in this age of globalization,” following the legendary overland Silk Route by horse and camel caravans, and President Xi Jinping’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Route.
De Venecia also noted Russia’s new initiative to create the Eurasian Economic Union among Russia and the Central Asian states along the Silk Route.
He said another striking recent development was China’s launching of the long-distance railway freight train from China to Europe and back, the extension of the Silk Route across the Red Sea to Africa.
Recalling his speeches before the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. and in the United Nations University in Barcelona, Spain, he told the Asia-Europe political leaders of the need for “bringing together the best elements of capitalism and socialism in a new applied art of governance, based on what works for a particular society over a specific historical period considering the persistent and incredibly huge gaps between the rich and poor in our time.”
He told leaders of the organizations of political parties in Asia and Europe:
“There will be a great need for transnational, transcultural groupings like ours—since the problems that face us more and more transcend national, regional and even hemispheric boundaries.
“We cannot turn away from the pursuit of peace because the alternative, conflict and war, would be immeasurably costly and make all of us losers.
“We must all then strive together to achieve the multicultural understanding, which is the only basis for the long-term security of our Asian region, Europe, and the global community.
“For understanding among the great civilizations is the only basis for global peace that will endure.
“The U. S. and Europe provided the world a historic, great and inspiring lesson on how to lift a destroyed continent from the ashes of war.
“In Asia, the U. S., Japan and 10-nation ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand, and the rise of China led an incredibly great period of economic recovery and modernization after World War II, the Korean War and the Indo-China wars.”
He concluded: “We commend these great lessons and great moments in history to say that never again should we allow geo-political conflict, nationalist passions and false ideologies, and inordinate great power ambitions to once again threaten Asia, Europe and the other countries of the world.”