Philippines and Indonesia resolve 20-year border dispute

  • 23 May 2014
  • From the section Asia
Philippine President Benigno Aquino (3nd R) stands beside Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (4th R) as they look at Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa (2nd L) and Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario (R) signing a maritime border accord at Malacanang Palace in Manila on 23 May 2014
Image caption The agreement was signed by the foreign ministers of the Philippines and Indonesia in Manila

The Philippines and Indonesia have settled a maritime border dispute after 20 years of negotiations.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said this was a "good example" of how to resolve sovereignty issues without force.

Meanwhile, Philippine President Benigno Aquino said his country wanted to end maritime issues through legal and peaceful means.

The deal comes amid increased regional tension over territorial disputes.

Deadly riots erupted in Vietnam last week, after China's decision to move a drilling rig into disputed waters in the South China Sea.

The foreign ministers of Indonesia and the Philippines met in Manila to sign the agreement, which defines maritime borders in the overlapping exclusive economic zones of the Mindanao and Celebes Seas in the southern Philippines.

Mr Yudhoyono is currently in the Philippines for a state visit and for the World Economic Forum on East Asia.

"This indeed is a model, a good example, that any disputes including maritime border tension can be resolved peacefully - not with the use of military might which [may] endanger stability and peace in our region," Mr Yudhoyono said.

For his part, Mr Aquino said: "It serves as solid proof to our steadfast commitment to uphold the rule of law and pursue the peaceful and equitable settlement of maritime concerns."

Many of the territorial disputes involve the South China Sea, which is considered a strategic shipping lane and may hold vast reserves of natural resources.

The Philippines has taken China to international court over its conflict in the area.

In 2012, a tense stand-off involving boats from both countries lasted for weeks, leading to protests and angry rhetoric on both sides. Manila has recently accused China of building an airstrip on a disputed reef there.

Aside from the Philippines and Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have competing claims with China over various islands, reefs and shoals in the region.

Separately, relations between China and Japan are also currently under strain over a territorial row involving islands in the East China Sea.

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