Boracay, Aklan, May 13, 2015—The APEC Counter Terrorism Working Group (CTWG) concluded its 5th meeting in Boracay on May 11, 2015 as part of the APEC SOM II meetings. The schedule of the CTWG was packed, with the active contribution by the member economies leading to the session on the first day extending beyond the scheduled time just to finish the topics under discussion.
On the first day the delegates discussed and updated the CTWG Strategic Plan 2013- 2017, and made an assessment of the CTWG’s implementation. CTWG Chair Oscar Valenzuela from the Philippines maintained that member economies must ensure that they are able to follow and attain the objectives of the Strategic Plan. He also reiterated that the Strategic Plan is a living document, it can be changed and updated to conform with the present conditions.
Furthermore, during the first day several countries also updated their Counter Terrorism Action Plans (CTAP). APEC’s CTAPs provide a concise checklist of counter-terrorism measures undertaken by an APEC member economy to achieve the key elements of the Secure Trade in the APEC Region (STAR) initiative. These include securing cargo, protecting people in transit, protecting ships engaged in international voyages and international aviation; combating threats to security; measures to halt the financing of terrorism; and, promoting cyber-security. Economies can indicate when they expect a particular measure to be implemented. The CTAPs are a useful tool that provides an opportunity for member economies to take stock of their efforts, to respond to Leaders and Ministers’ directions and to highlight capacity-building needs to implement these commitments.
Apart from the CTAP updates, there were various presentations given by some member economies. The issue of foreign terrorist fighters was a major topic during the meeting. There were presentations regarding the threat of foreign terrorist fighters to the region and the various responses of the different countries to this threat. There were also presentations on terrorist financing, and on providing security for critical energy infrastructure, critical information infrastructure, and transportation. The presentations shed light on the current terrorist threats in the region and provide a reference for the member economies evaluate their own threat levels and responses as regards terrorism.
It was also evident from the interactions between the economies and their contributions in the discussions that the members are seriously looking into this burgeoning issue on foreign terrorist fighters. As Chair Valenzuela said in his closing remarks: “This is an indication that we are all very much interested and involved all our nations are on the issue of terrorism. From the exchanges, the issue of terrorism, especially the threat of violent extremism and foreign terrorist fighters, is becoming a concern. Now we must look at the lessons we have learned in this meeting and apply them in our own economies.”
Also discussed were upcoming projects and activities in relation to the four cross-cutting activity areas of the APEC Counter-Terrorism and Secure Trade Strategy. The member economies expressed their full support for these activities, many of which are meant to be capacity building initiatives, which should ensure that these will come into fruition and will have the maximum effect intended.
During the second day, the member economies listened to a presentation by Mr. Hernan Longo, a representative from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Office for Southeast Asia and The Pacific. The Programme Officer of the UNODC presented the international legal framework on terrorism, as well as touching upon the activities of the UNODC regarding terrorism. Many of the APEC’s initiatives are aligned to the programs of the UNODC, and the invitation extended to the UNODC by the CTWG presents the opportunity for future collaboration between the two bodies and harmonization of their respective efforts. This will have a positive effect on each of their programs and activities.
For the duration of the meeting the delegates were given the hospitality that is a hallmark of Filipino culture. They were given a taste of local fare during the lunches hosted by the host agency, and they enjoyed the sights and sounds of Boracay at its best, with its beautiful white sand beaches, clear waters, and radiant sunsets.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Chair Valenzuela thanked the APEC National Organizing Committee and the Conference Management Services, as well as the administrative staff, for the excellent arrangements made for the meeting. He also thanked the member economies for their valuable contributions throughout the meeting. The CTWG Chair exhorted the member economies to remain steadfast and cooperate with each other in the fight against terrorism. As he said in his closing remarks: “Our nations individually and collectively must show the resolve to combat the threat of terrorism. Such is the difficult task which we all face, combating an enemy which hides in the shadows, acting surreptitiously, and bent on imposing their radical and twisted ideology of violence. Our nations must come together and stand firm in combating the threat of terrorism to protect our people, our way of life, our future.”