July 23, 2019
Latest News

Southeast Asian leaders seek agreement on garbage in seas

By Noel Caballero

Bangkok, June 22 (efe-epa).- Southeast Asian leaders are trying this weekend to approve a declaration on garbage in the seas to tackle the problem of ocean plastic pollution and advance a commercial mega-trade in the region.

The leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which began its plenary session in the Thai capital Bangkok on Saturday, intends to address the problem.

Four of its members, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, are considered, along with China, to be responsible for half of the plastic pollution of the world’s oceans.

"ASEAN faces unprecedented challenges such as climate change, trade competition, development gaps and disparate security threats, as well as economic transformations and social changes in the wake of the fourth industrial revolution," Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, said in his opening speech.

Under the slogan "Advancing together towards sustainability," the group is seeking to progress favorable measures for the environment.

Several countries in the region are to reinforce their laws to prohibit the importation of non-recyclable waste.

During the summit, the countries hope to sign the "Bangkok Declaration," the group’s first agreement to tackle marine trash.

Environmental group Greenpeace asked the leaders of Southeast Asia for a range of measures, including an "immediate ban on all imports of plastic waste," as well as reducing single use plastic and promoting the circular economy that does not produce waste.

Since China banned the importation of non-recyclable plastic waste in 2018, shipments were largely transferred to southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Asean, which was founded in 1967 and consists of Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, is a strong supporter of multilateralism and hopes to become by 2030 the fourth most important economic bloc in the world.

Foreign ministers and heads of economy from the ten nations spoke on Saturday on how to find common ground with the Regional Integral Economic Association, a free trade agreement that would create the largest economic alliance in the world by bringing together almost 40 percent of global GDP.

The talks, involving the ASEAN nations along with Australia, China, South Korea, India, Japan and New Zealand, with a combined population of 3.4 billion people, are scheduled to conclude at the end of the year.

Busadee Santipitaks, Thai Foreign Ministry, told the media that the leaders will seek a consensus on the "Code of Conduct in the South China Sea," a region where some ASEAN countries have a territorial dispute with China.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in Manila on Friday before leaving for the Thai capital that it is not correct for China to claim "an entire ocean," a sovereign claim that clashes with the stance of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The political leaders will also talk about the Rohingya crisis, which began in 2017 with the operation of the Burmese Army in the west of the country and has caused the flight to Bangladesh of some 728,000 members of this ethnic minority.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on Saturday asked his counterparts to bring to court those responsible for the crisis, which the United Nations has described as "ethnic cleansing with marks of genocide."

It is a difficult issue due to the "principle of non-interference in internal affairs" that governs the bloc and for which up to now Burma, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and de facto leader of the Government, Aung San Suu Kyi, has maintained a strict veto.

The ASEAN summit will continue on Sunday. EFE-EPA

nc/rb

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