Former Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives Jose de Venecia
Founding Chairman and Chairman of Standing Committee, International Conference
of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP);
Co-Chairman, International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP);
Special Envoy of the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and for Intercultural Dialogue
10th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP)
Moscow, Russia; October 24-27, 2018
Excellencies, friends, and colleagues,
On behalf of the Standing Committee of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), we are honored to add our welcome to those already expressed here for all the participants and guests at this 10th General Assembly of the ICAPP and its founding in Manila at the turn of the century, in the year 2000.
We thank the United Russia Party led by its Chairman and statesman, H.E. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, for hosting this conference. May we also greet H.E. Sergey Zheleznyak, Deputy Secretary General for International Affairs of the United Russia Party, and the other highly-regarded representatives of the United Russia Party in the ICAPP Standing Committee, our dear colleagues, H.E. Senator Andrey Klimov, and H.E. Senator Konstantin Kosachev, and their able Ambassador to Manila H.E. Igor Khovaev.
First and foremost, we thank the Russian Government and the Russian people led by H.E. President Vladimir Putin for his sustained remarkable leadership and for welcoming us to this great nation.
Embracing ICAPP’s original vision
We are gathered here in Moscow to celebrate another historic milestone for our International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), which now represents some 350 ruling, opposition and independent political parties from 52 countries in Asia.
Eighteen years ago in the year 2000, when forty Asian parties responded to our invitation to inaugurate the ICAPP in Manila, we laid out a vision in our opening remarks.
“To meet these challenges,” we said, “Asia’s leaderships must raise strong political will.
And this political will only the political parties can provide. For, while governments come and go, political parties remain.”
For emphasis we said, “By just agreeing to talk about shared solutions to problems that we have in common is already a major achievement in itself.”
We, the political parties of Asia, representing various persuasions and interests but undeniably those of the sovereign people, are gathered here in this same spirit, a spirit that will drive our endeavours and that our peoples will understand and, in the future, perhaps even acclaim.
For, together, we constitute an instrument for global peace, a vehicle for development, and a force to help solve the festering conflicts in our continent and in the global community.
There are much more protracted conflicts in Asia and the international community, and they are occurring in our seas and in our land borders.
A most practical solution in China Sea crises
On the maritime disputes, the one that is causing the greatest concern is in the South China Sea, sparked by the raging disagreement and conflicting sovereignty claims.
But we have repeatedly pointed out that there is the potential for a peaceful settlement.
China’s former great leader, Deng Xiaoping, the architect of its economic modernization, already laid out the best possible route that rival claimants China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and even Taiwan could take. It is to temporarily shelve the issue of sovereignty to pave the way for joint exploration and joint development of the disputed area’s hydrocarbon resources.
We had the privilege to officially propose in 2004-2005, then as Speaker of the House, the three-nation Seismic Agreement officially signed and undertaken by Manila, Beijing and Hanoi. Its aim was to assess the area’s potential for oil/gas exploration and development preparatory to drilling and create the environment for peace and cooperation in the China Sea. Hydrocarbon specialists of the three nations pronounced the area’s prospects “promising”.
Yes, now is the time to revive this agreement so rival nations could convert the area from one of conflict into a Zone of Peace, Friendship, Cooperation and Development. It is obvious as members of the ASEAN family that today, with China, we must find ways and means to jointly develop its oil/gas potential to help lessen our expensive common dependence on distant petroleum sources in the Persian/Arab Gulf of the Middle East.
Imagine the potential for peace in the heartland of the South China Sea if we undertake a joint development of its resources.
From an area of conflict, it could be transformed into a landscape and seascape of small seaports, airports and oil pipelines. Fishing villages and small tourism townships could rapidly rise and the contested areas could become the untrammelled passage way for global shipping, carrying more than 50 percent of the sea freight of the world.
This is perhaps the most realistic, most common-sensical solution to the problem of the Spratlys and the nearby Paracels, and which could be joined by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, and could also be the same formula for the dangerous problem between China and Japan in the tiny isles in the Senkaku Straits or Diaoyu in the East China Sea.
Resource-sharing by other countries
We take the opportunity to suggest that a history of conflict avoidance and joint development involving rival nations abound, perhaps as a result of intelligent, creative, humble and pragmatic diplomacy.
In the Norwegian Ekofisk oil field in the North Sea—which we visited when we were president of the Petroleum Association of the Philippines in the 1970s—the discovered oil in the sea goes even now to Norway and to Teeside, England and the natural gas goes to Germany.
The oil in the Caspian Sea countries is shared by Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan and others, because among them, there is demarcation and practical mutual understanding and goodwill.
Giant Australia and tiny East Timor share the hydrocarbons in the South Pacific in the waters just below Darwin and on the southeast side of Asia’s newest republic.
The 1989 Agreement between Malaysia and Thailand enabled them to jointly develop their disputed waters.
The Guinea-Bissau and Senegal Agreement of 1993 helped the concerned countries develop their disputed areas.
The border conflicts in Asia are more explosive, seemingly more intractable—between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, between India and China in their common mountainous region, between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh, and the continuing most difficult conflict between the Israelis and Arabs.
More than ever, the political parties of Asia, strongly support the revival of the Arab-Israeli peace process and indeed all similar initiatives in the conflict areas of the world.
Russia-China War averted
Dear friends: Might not the lessons of history again help us?
Even as dangerous a dispute as one between Russia and China, which led the two countries involving hundreds of thousands of their troops poised to pounce on each other in the brink of war, did not explode into full-scale bloody confrontation because of prudence.
As you may recall, the dispute was over a territory in the vicinity of the Ussuri (Wusuli) river in the eastern region of the then USSR, north of Vladivostok, in 1969.
The surprise 1992 Border Agreement between China and Russia rapidly resolved their territorial dispute in the Argun and Amur rivers, where China was granted control over Tarabahov Island (Yinlong Island) and about 50 percent of Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island (Heixiazi Island) near Khabarovsk.
Asia and the world must never forget one of the foremost leaders in Asian history, China’s “Paramount Leader” Deng Xiaoping and its President Yang Shangkun and the USSR’s President Boris Yeltsin for the classic Border Agreement between China and Russia that resolved what could have been an explosive and ruinous conflict between the two major powers, with Russia still supported by its satellite states at the time and both already wielding nuclear weapons.
As a young journalist at the time, we still remember with nostalgia the great relief of the international community over the classic truce in the Ussuri river.
Indeed, Excellencies, friends, the idea of “win-win cooperation”, of a pragmatic and intelligent sharing of areas and resources could help build a model for lessening tensions and solving conflicts, and avoiding the possibility of war in Asia’s manifold and dangerous flashpoints.
Revival of Six-Party Talks on North Korea
On the Korean peninsula, another major flashpoint, we also ask for the revival of the long stalemated Six-Nation Talks between South Korea, North Korea, the U.S., Japan, China, and Russia to consider reunification of the two Koreas, which is a most difficult but not an impossible task.
In a more recent time, unthinkable as it might have seemed then, the two Germanys and the two Vietnams eventually united by the will of their leaders and peoples, by good fortune, and by the inexorable forces of history.
On the raging Sunni-Shiite issues and the extremist violence in the Arab world, and the emergence of ISIS-ISIL in the battlegrounds of Syria and Iraq and even Libya, one cannot discount the magnitude of the barriers that intense doctrinal separation has raised between the two great schools of Islam.
As we advocated before in our letters to Saudi Arabia’s then King Abdullah and Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, it would be of great relief to our region and the world, if the two leaders of Islam—Saudi Arabia, representing the Sunnis, and Iran, representing the Shiites—could perhaps meet in Mecca and Medina and bring about the beginnings of reconciliation and the end of violence in the lands of Islam, and head off decisively the expansion and internationalization of ISIS-ISIL.
This initiative is most difficult but not impossible.
The bloody Catholic-Protestant conflicts in Europe that ran for centuries have long since ended, the latest achievement being the relatively more recent “Good Friday” peace agreement not too long ago that ended the brutal wars in Northern Ireland.
Revival of Inter-Faith Dialogue
To reduce politico-religious conflicts and tensions in various parts of the world, we, the political parties of Asia, must urge the revival of the Global Interfaith Dialogue among Christians, Muslims, Shiites and Sunnis, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and others. We in ICAPP had the privilege to propose this Dialogue for which the U.N. General Assembly gave its endorsement in 2004 at a time when discussion of religious issues was taboo in the U.N. system.
More than ever, we the political parties of Asia, must also join hands today with our governments and civil societies in rejecting extremist politics and radical movements, and in opposing terrorism and violent separatism that have bedevilled a number of countries in our regions.
No to Cold War in the Asia Pacific
Between Moscow and Washington—and between Washington and Beijing—and between Moscow and the European powers—mutual accommodation must be found that gives the parties strategic reassurance and respect for their “core interests.”
Ironically, the hard peace between the earlier Cold War principals—the United States and the former Soviet Union—has enabled the smaller countries to enjoy well over a generation of political stability and economic growth.
For us in Asia, the age of ideological conflict is, and should be, over.
We declare we want no new Cold War in the Asia Pacific. Nor do we wish any state in our home region or in any other region to play either the “American Card” or the “China Card” or the “Russian Card” or the “Isis Card.”
Support for Silk Road Revival
We in ICAPP support Chinese President Xi Jinping’s historic revival of the ancient overland Silk Road and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives, which connect the Mediterranean to the Pacific Ocean through the deserts and mountains of Central Asia and Eurasia, today augmented by criss-crossing modern infrastructure, rail, highways, oil and gas pipe lines, new seaports in the Indian Ocean to support a maritime silk route, and the 11,000 kilometers rail line from Chongqing to Duisburg in Germany, and the traffic all the way to London and back to Asia, unprecedented in the history of Asia and Europe.
Although often compared with the historic U.S. initiative that rebuilt Western Europe from the ashes of World War II, called the Marshall Plan, the Silk Road today has the potential to change this century, and hopefully, it is going to change it for the better.
It is being carried out on a wide scale, it involves countries and peoples across three continents of the world—from Asia to Europe and Africa—and it is free from the politics of ideology that some claim led to some of the historic failures in development in the post-World War II era.
We see in this cross-cultural exchange through trade and economic and political partnership and people-to-people symbioses the major forces needed in the campaign against poverty and the promise of inclusive mutual prosperity in our region, in the world, and in our time.
Excellencies, friends: Let us point out that our generation is living through historic transformations in global politics.
Nowadays it is difficult even to recall how radical socialism—then enshrined in Moscow—had once inspired so much idealism, devotion, and self-sacrifice, throughout the world.
But the Indian revolutionary M.N. Roy has written memorably of how, in the 1930s, he had waited tremulously every evening for Moscow Radio to broadcast Communism’s call-to-the-barricades—the ‘Internationale.’
And those of us who lived through World War II must remember the heroic Russian armies that, at unimaginable human cost, stopped the Nazi blitzkrieg short of Leningrad, and ultimately brought Stalin with Roosevelt and Churchill to Yalta in the Crimea as one of the victorious ‘Big Three.’
Even today, much more today, it is our fondest and strongest hope that Russia, the U.S., China, and the major powers in the European Union who were Allies during World War II—United Kingdom and France—and their former enemies, but today, their staunch allies—Japan, Germany, and Italy—to form a genuine global alliance in concert with and under United Nations (U.N.) aegis, to continuously work, without deadline, on a long-term global agenda for peace and for humankind.
Impossible dream, maybe, but the optimists and the students of history believe as we do, that the work must go on and indeed the dream should never die.
Socialism the Ideology
Excellencies, friends: Until now University academics debate the rise and fall of the ideology that one of them has called ‘The Dream That Failed.’
But, in our view, socialism has not shed its core ideas. Instead it has shed them of their conspiratorial and authoritarian aspects. And these core-ideas continue to animate political parties that now style themselves as ‘social democrats.’
In Scandinavia and Western Europe, these electoral parties espouse the social market; champion social safety nets, and form responsive governments.
In East Asia, social democracy’s economic core-idea—the idea of public-private-sector partnership as the poor country’s best path to development—has again and again proved superior to the conservative notion that government governs best that governs least.
In Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, strong, interventionist states continue to perform what the World Bank calls the ‘East Asian Economic Miracle.’
In the same spirit, Deng Xiaoping’s successors in Beijing seem to value Communism the ideology less than they do the cadre of eighty million party members the Communist Party of China (CPC) has raised to lead China’s drive for wealth and power.
And China’s challenge to the global community is really economic rather than ideological or military. And it is that the state-directed enterprise economy is better equipped to overcome the cycles of boom-and-bust that characterize the capitalist economy.
Best elements of Capitalism and Socialism
Excellencies, friends: In this classic battle against poverty, may we find a way perhaps of tempering the individual initiative that capitalism stimulates with socialism’s compassion for those whom development leaves behind.
We had much earlier suggested sometime back, in addressing the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. and later, the United Nations University in Barcelona, Spain, and various international conferences, that there might be merit in bringing together the best elements of both capitalism and socialism in a new applied art of governance—based on what works best for a particular society over a specific historical period considering the persistent and incredibly huge gaps between rich and poor in our time.
The concept could also integrate the finer features of Germany’s “social market” economy, and should perhaps operate under the aegis of a liberal constitutional democracy committed to free elections, free markets, and a free media.
In China, the then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, hero of China’s successful modernization and opening to the world, advocated—in fact started off—a Chinese economic system neither Marxian socialism nor Adam Smith-type capitalism, but something in between or what has been called “socialism with Chinese characteristics” or “Confucian synergism” which has worked exceedingly well for China, lifting it to the second largest economic power in the world, next only to the United States.
Russia as an Asian Power
Excellencies, friends: Russia has opened to the world community at an epochal time. The center of global gravity is moving away from the Atlantic—where it has been during these last 200 years—to the Pacific.
And it is doing so, not so much because the West is weakening, whether economically or militarily, as because other power centers are growing in relative strength—in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
By 2025, the Asia Pacific will be home to the largest economies, the most powerful militaries, and the most attractive cultures. And Russia—geo-politically both a European and an Asian power—will be principal among them.
So it is in the interest of all our countries that Russia should re-enter the international community in the best possible light.
And it is to this mission of restoring Russia to its rightful place in the concert of powers that ICAPP should dedicate itself during our watch.
Russia in modern times
In modern times, the new Russia first appeared as an Asia-Pacific power in November 2012, when Vladivostok—capital of the Russian Far East—staged the APEC forum of 21 Pacific Rim states.
Indeed today, Russia is a country of continental dimensions—just as expansive as the Russian people are, in their zest for life.
By itself, the Russian Far East (RFE) is nearly as large as the continental United States and 60% of Russian geography is Asian.
Integration of the resource-rich RFE into the Asia-Pacific economy will enable Russia to take a full part in the affairs of the world’s fastest-growing region.
Russia into the fold
Bringing Russia into the concert of powers will be no easy task.
Moscow has been in a sense a secluded capital, for the most part, since the October Revolution of 1917; and bringing her back into the fold will require the goodwill of all the great powers—the United States, the European Union, China, India and Japan—collectively.
It will require the easing of mutual suspicions and cross-border intrigues—particularly in the Middle East, and in the girdle of buffer states on Russia’s borders that Russia still regards as within its sphere of influence—and in whose future it still has ‘privileged interests.’
It will also mean ending the seemingly permanent political crises in the Middle East and at other global flash points that unavoidably attract the attention of great powers.
In the same spirit, cross-border initiatives of great powers—such as President Xi Jinping’s ‘Silk Road’ venture—must begin to align themselves with the policies of other great powers—crucially on Climate Change and denuclearization.
Constant consultation must become the watchword of the great powers. Ready or not, they must submit to the unrelenting discipline that Globalization imposes.
Russia in the Asian concert of powers
President Vladimir Putin—having pulled the Russian state together—is working to restore his country to great-power status. Russia’s reclamation of its Asia Pacific role will boost multilateralism—particularly in managing conflict and in spurring regional growth.
Economically, Sakhalin Island’s LNG production is crucial to Japan, South Korea and even Taiwan: between them they consume three-fourths of the world’s LNG supply. Meanwhile, Moscow and Beijing must agree on a way of benefiting equally from their cooperative exploitation of the Russian Far East’s wealth of resources.
Politically, Russia’s leadership participation will be vital to a resolution of the issue of nuclear proliferation and Korean unification; and even to the multilateral settlement of American-Chinese differences in the China Sea.
Hence there are many sound reasons for us in East Asia to wholeheartedly welcome Russia’s re-entry into the Asia-Pacific concert of powers.
The new Pacific Peace
The ultimate task for our statesmen must be to replace the Pax Americana that has enforced stability on our region during this last half-century with a Pax Pacifica founded on the balance of mutual benefit; and freely subscribed to by all the powers with vital interests in the region. After all, the U.S. is and will always be a Pacific power.
Excellencies, friends, in all of these urgent tasks, the leadership and participation of the new Russia and the great Russian people will be crucial.
Like the double-headed eagle on its historic coat of arms, the new Russia looks both West and East. And Moscow’s eastward turn, we welcome most heartily, in ICAPP and in Asia.