philippines-indonesia relations ASEAN China

At least one long-running maritime border dispute in Southeast Asia is heading towards peaceful settlement.

On Monday, the Indonesian and Philippine foreign ministers announced that the two countries had settled their maritime border dispute, with a boundary treaty likely to be signed when President Yudhoyono visits the Philippines in May. This maritime border agreement follows a 5 February agreement between the Philippines and Indonesia to provide Filipino fishing vessels passage through Indonesia's exclusive economic zone to key fishing zones in international waters.

As reflected by the extremely minimal coverage of this story even within the Philippine press, regional and global attention is focused on the disputes in the South China Sea between China and Southeast Asian states.

Yet relations between maritime Southeast Asian states and ASEAN's ability to speak with one voice on the disputes between China and ASEAN members in the South China Sea have long been constrained by the large number of intra-mural maritime territorial disputes. Finding political solutions to these disputes would remove both constraints. The Philippines and Indonesia have made a good start.

Photo by Flickr user tylerray.