PostHeaderIcon Asia To Strengthen Civilian-Military Disaster Cooperation

The plan includes taking an inventory of the transport capabilities of the region's armed forces that can be used for humanitarian operations in the aftermath of a calamity, they said. Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum (ARF) adopted a statement on "disaster management and emergency response" at the end of their annual meeting here Friday. The statement said the ministers would "consider, as appropriate, the development of ARF general guidelines ... for the use of both civilian and military personnel within the ARF participating countries." Such guidelines however must be consistent with existing United Nations and ASEAN mechanisms on disaster management and emergency response, the document said. ARF groups the 10 ASEAN countries as well as the United States, Russia, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea, India and the European Union, among others. "The decision to develop standard operating procedures on civilian military cooperation for humanitarian operations, I think, is among the most important portions of the statement," said M.C. Abad, head of ASEAN's ARF unit. "It will allow for the use of military assets of ARF members for disaster relief... We will develop a database of these assets of the member ARF states," he told AFP. Officials said the move to work on guidelines was timely following a spate of major natural disasters that have struck the region. The latest was an earthquake-triggered tsunami on Indonesia's Java island this month that killed more than 680 people. On December 26, 2004, a massive earthquake off Indonesia's Aceh province sent giant waves crashing onto coastal communities bordering the Indian Ocean, killing 220,000 people. A landslide in February left more than 1,000 people dead in the central Philippines island of Leyte and a major quake in Pakistan last October claimed 73,000 lives. During the 2004 tsunami, military transport aircraft and ships from such countries as the United States, Singapore and Australia provided a crucial lifeline to the devastated areas in terms of search and rescue as well as relief operations. According to the document, ARF countries would promote coordination among donors, relief agencies and the global community in carrying out rehabilitation and reconstruction work, and coordinating with national disaster warning centres. They would also take measures to identify regional disaster risks and the capacities to manage these dangers and share information on them. On ASEAN's part, the bloc is discussing the establishment of a "standby force" comprised of military, police and civil defence personnel that can be deployed swiftly after a disaster, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said. "It is crucial in the sense that we should understand that our region is a disaster-prone region," he told AFP. ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong said disaster preparedness measures had been on the group's agenda especially since the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. "Most of the activities, working plans have all been tested out. It is something that we want to finish. (It's) good for our region because we have so many natural disasters," he said. mba/sls/mtp



ASEAN-ARF-DISASTER - 07/28/2006 19:37 - AFP
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Service: World News (ASI)