Last year, a day prior to addressing the STAR III Conference in Incheon Korea, my throat got 'terrorized.' I lost my voice completely. Despite my misfortune, Mr Bui Hong Duong stayed with his invitation for me to address today this important event. My thanks and compliments, therefore, go to him and to the organizers of this Fourth Secure Trade in the Asia-Pacific Region (STAR IV) Conference for this privilege and honor.
I am particularly pleased that Viet Nam, this year's host, chose to schedule this STAR IV Conference before, not after, our CTTF meeting. The STAR Initiative not only forms part of the CTTF process; it is, in fact, a key opening event whose outcomes go into our Work Plan for the year.
I am equally grateful that the STAR IV organizers agreed to have my topic refocused from "Global and Regional Challenges to Human Security Nowadays" to "Challenges for Counter-Terrorism at APEC." Human security, as we all know, spans a broad spectrum, and I was not sure I would be able to cover the ground before you felt the urge to leave your seats for coffee or tea.
Counter-Terrorism at APEC is a subject I am always happy to engage in. It is one article I have consistently carried forward in many international conferences and will continue to advance in other fora. In the last APEC Leaders' and Ministers' Conference in Busan, the performance of CTTF under my chairmanship was commended openly by the Ministers and Leaders. But the honor's not mine alone. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Task Force who are here today for their support and cooperation. Without their active participation and commitment, we could not have achieved what we did last year.
Duty to Entrench
As the Chair of the APEC CTTF, it is my duty to further entrench the counter-terrorism and security agenda at APEC. The reason is: security is an "insecure" subject at APEC. It is a work-in-progress and remains challenged to this day.
We all know the rationale. Terrorism directly impacts human security. Terrorism compels counter-terrorism responses from governments that impact the exercise of freedoms.
But more significantly, terrorism zeroes in on economic targeting, on disrupting business and travel, on undermining investments and destroying symbols and infrastructures.
Since the release in 2003 of the study commissioned by Australia, entitled "The Costs of Terrorism and the Benefits of Cooperating to Combat Terrorism," we have known the costs to international trade, to tourism and, in particular, to our supply chains.
We have known the risks and disruptions to the major revenue earners - the airline and travel companies, insurance firms, postal industries, and information technology sectors.
And we have come to accept that failure to plan, failure to prepare, failure to act and failure to cooperate with other agencies, economies and international organizations do result in dire consequences. As long as the threat of terrorism exists, we cannot get rid of the uncertainty that goes with it, which becomes the parent of other problems.
This is why the APEC CTTF was born three years ago.
Filling a Niche
Formed mainly to implement the annual statements of Leaders and Ministers, beginning with the seminal 2002 Statement on Fighting Terrorism and Promoting Growth, the CTTF has remarkably filled a niche at APEC, addressing a wide spectrum of concerns.
The most important of these concerns is the STAR Initiative, which covers a number of measures aimed to protect trade and travel in the region through strengthened ship, port and cargo security, improved airline passenger and crew safety and strengthened border controls. With STAR, the CTTF's purpose at APEC has become imperative.
But counter-terrorism at APEC transcends secure trade arrangements. It upholds commitments made by Leaders to help prosecute the global war on terror. It encourages respect for relevant obligations under international law. It seeks to protect and enhance human security, including protecting communities from the outbreak of disease. And it pursues strategies not only to lessen state vulnerabilities but also to reduce conditions that breed poverty and radicalism.
Remarkably notwithstanding early difficulties, the CTTF has helped advance APEC's agenda of securing freer trade. Building on the first STAR initiatives, APEC members moved to set up the key mechanisms that would strengthen maritime structures, secure international aviation, protect shipping and cargo, prevent trade disruptions, contain deadly disease, counter direct threats to security, protect critical infrastructure, and stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
In 2004, additional initiatives further firmed up the footing and role of the CTTF as capacity-building coordinator at APEC. These included projects that provide advance information on travelers, detect fraudulent documents, track shipments of secure containers, raise the standards of immigration service, protect energy markets, and build counter-terrorism capacities.
In 2005, under my chairmanship, the CTAPs cross-analysis project - a key basis for prioritized CT capacity building and technical assistance projects, was completed. Civil aviation stood to benefit from reduced missile threat threat with the adoption of the MANPADS vulnerability assessments. Public health glowed on safer grounds following the adoption of the radioactive sources initiative. Trade transactions looked more secure in the face of plans to adopt a Total Supply Chain Security system for the region.
In a short span of three years, the CTTF's rise has been remarkable, and the ground it has covered, truly extensive. My sense of pride is magnified by having been a part of it.
Operational Challenges
The grounds, however, continue to expand, move and shift and herein lies one challenge for counter-terrorism at APEC: finding the operational focus.
Since the Bali bombings in 2002, the rationale for establishing a Task Force to implement the Leaders' instructions has become clear. So has the imperative for every economy to come up with a Counter-Terrorism Action Plan or CTAP that would directly articulate anti-terrorism measures - among them track down terrorist financing and prevent proliferation.
Two years later, after all these individual CTAPs had been cross-analyzed to determine the common themes and needs of the region, the preferred priorities of the APEC members turned out to gravitate around 1) protection of cargo 2) protection of ships and 3) protection of the health of communities.
In the meantime, the trajectory of CT efforts has been largely towards the protection of international aviation as agreed to by the members. Finding the focus of CT in the Asia-Pacific region is made more difficult by the need to build capacity based on agreed priorities and available funding. Since the First STAR Conference, the list of CB needs and activities from cargo protection to promoting cybersecurity has lengthened. APEC's limited resources, however, can only fund small scale undertakings, pilot projects or feasibility studies. The need for the international financial institutions, donor organizations and other enablers is real in view of competing priorities.
Another challenge is adjusting to human security demands while shoring up CT capabilities. This year, based on the 2005 Leaders' instructions, the emphasis under Human Security has shifted toward joint measures against bird flu, terrorism, corruption and natural disasters in that order.
The Busan directive is well-informed. For we lose more people to unexpected disease outbreaks than to terrorism. We also lose far greater numbers to natural calamities than to deliberate extremist acts. The Bali bombings claimed over 200 innocent lives. In contrast, the Indian Ocean tsunami killed an estimated 126,473 in Indonesia alone. Last year, we saw the same lessons in New Orleans.
As increasingly it appears that the Asia-Pacific region would be suffering more from natural calamities than terror attacks, there is a need for CT activities to be directed to the area of disaster response and mitigation as the Virtual Task Force on Emergency Preparedness had done last year.
Last week, a day after a whole mountain, softened by continuous rains, disintegrated and covered an entire village, burying close to 1500 people in Southern Leyte, Philippines, the international community was quick to respond.
Australia pledged immediate aid through the Red Cross. Japan pledged relief items, including tents, generators and water purification units. China offered emergency relief. A Chinese Taipei Search and Rescue Team arrived with their dedicated and special rescue equipment. Malaysia flew in a contingent of medical workers. Viet Nam and Indonesia provided assistance. And US soldiers who were about to hold training operations with our Filipino soldiers in Southern Philippines shifted gears, slung their rifles, brought out their shovels and special drills and flew to the site.
Suddenly filled up with massive aid and assistance units from all over the world, including from France, Germany, Switzerland, the World Health Organization, the United Nations and other relief and rescue agencies, the site has become an international station of cooperation. While hopes of finding the school children, reported to have been trapped under 30 meters of mud, have diminished, I assure you, Filipino hearts have been warmed by such response from the international community.
The major part of this kind of response came from APEC economies. And I wish to send the sincerest thanks and appreciation of the Philippine government to all of you.
What the mudslide tragedy showed was that along with other dedicated agencies, our CTTF and other Special Task Groups and Committees could make a difference.
We could prepare to be first responders, to mitigate the first impact of any human security incident, and to help rehabilitate stricken communities.
We could add more emergency response training programs and conferences on exchanging best practices in these types of situations. Or the training could happen right there in the scene of tragedy - which, by the way, instantaneously forms lasting bonds between and among relief workers and agencies.
All it takes is to stay in touch and to coordinate efforts closely with the other units, which brings me to another key challenge - coordination within and outside the APEC structure.
Last year this is something we tried to tighten. We were rewarded with reports from the Informal Experts Group on Business Mobility and the Energy Working Group, whose own security initiatives promise to issue dividends in terms of strengthened borders, secure travel, and assured energy distribution.
In our work, international cooperation has become a buzzword. But cooperation implies interdependence among economies and we have to realize we are a part of a complex system characterized by trade and security. The cooperation that we seek with international organizations is not fully realized. Our Task Force needs a vibrant linkage to bodies like G8 CTAG, EU and the United Nations. Without these linkages, CT initiatives and assistance programs such as the ones contemplated by EU for Southeast Asian economies will have to rely mainly on bilateral routes.
The APEC process works in such a way that everything done normally leads up to the Leaders' Summit. Along the way, the Heads of the various Working Groups, Special Task Groups, the Chairmen of Committees, and the Senior Officials actually encounter opportunities to render their voice in the name of APEC. As Chair of the CTTF, I do feel would add greater value if I could so much as convey the sympathies of the members to the victims of attacks or survivors of disaster at the time of need.
In this age of heightened uncertainties and converging interests, it shouldn't only be the APEC process that must be observed; the kind of APEC response at any one time to a highly dynamic but perilous world must be defined, rehearsed, and applied.
CTTF 2006 Deliverables
APEC's counter-terrorism deliverables for this year 2006 are not difficult to achieve. We have worked them out last year, step by step, until they earned the approbation of the Leaders. They include:
  • enhancing public-private partnerships to strengthen cooperation against terrorism while improving efficiency in trade and investment;
  • disseminating information on measures taken to secure trade based on the STAR IV outcomes and recommendations;
  • supporting Singapore's initiative to host an APEC Symposium on Total Supply Chain Security;
  • implementing the International Atomic Energy Agency Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources by the end of 2006;
  • adhering to the Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources by the end of 2006;
  • and undertaking MANPADS vulnerability assessments of international airports by the end of 2006.
Let me emphasize that as one who has been directly involved in putting terrorists out of business, these deliverables reflect only a part of the courses of actions we intend to take. Actions define our Task Force. For ideas and statements alone do not constitute force. It is the actions that we take that develop that force. And I am pleased to inform you that at CTTF, as we had done last year, we not only respond to the Leaders' Statements, we report on what we have done about them.
Strategic Challenges
Beyond these deliverables, however, lie the more complex strategic challenges.
The first is catching up with APEC's economic expansion. The November 2005 report by the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council paints a robust picture of "state of the region." Overall the region continues to experience stronger-then-expected GDP growth with some mild inflationary trends. The region is also increasingly merging with South Asia which promises more trade activities and exposure to risks at the same time.
Given the enlarged scope for cooperation on securing trade as well as containing threats to human security, APEC's counter-terrorism efforts are bound to be overwhelmed by overlapping security demands.
At the same time the growing trans-Pacific economic imbalances, which could impact CB assistance from generous economies, will most likely leave developing economies with less effective CT capacities.
The second is grasping the cultural dynamics of the region, particularly the way members nurture and defend their lifestyles and faiths. One strength we share is unity in diversity. But even that strength proved wanting when cartoons, drawn way back in September 2004, underestimated the present sensitivities of our brother Muslims and produced a higher price tag for some economies.
Unless our CT efforts include a genuine consideration for the things that are held sacred by members, we will be blindsided by unprecedented events, and no level of disaster response or impact mitigation will suffice.
Last year our Work Plan included interfaith dialogue and cooperation, but the responsibility was moved to another Group. Even at APEC, we cannot ignore the strategic value of respecting cultures and traditions without losing some ground in the deeper, longer-term effort to address the causes of terrorism.
The third is identifying the possible hotspots, the weak links and flash points for conflict. At the APEC region, the relatively weaker areas, based on economic resilience, are in Southeast Asia. This is not to say the other regions, such as Northeast Asia, pose lesser threats.
But the fact is: as the region prospers more with the vibrant progress of China and Japan, Korea, Australia and the United States, the economic divide widens for those in the southern fringes - with the exception of some economies. Any informed strategy - whether political, economic or military - should therefore do well to consider the higher probabilities of the threats emanating from the less progressive economies on account of the pressures of globalization and resulting social conditions that tend to impoverish, rather empower, individuals and communities.
Addressing these three strategic challenges requires no less than a whole-of-region approach that incorporates everything that would conceivably work for our common goals. This includes the all-important private-public sector partnership. This is important because some key private sectors, who have immense resources, actually still feel that security should be the prime responsibility of governments, whose resources, in contrast, are limited. As long as there is unwillingness by any sector to take this threat by the horns, we will be afflicted with blind spots as we address a central issue of our time, and this could be fatal.
The fourth and last "strategic" challenge to me lies in transforming the character of the APEC CTTF - from a Task Force to a Security Working Group, run by a team of skilled practitioners in the diplomatic front and experts in security.
The reasons are compelling. For the past three years, the CTTF has been delivering on the Leaders' instructions. For the past three years, the CTTF has expanded its menu of CT and human security measures. But for the next many many years, terrorism, on account of its highly adaptive character, will continue to trump our cards, shift policy and destroy projections.
Like unstudied wars before, it will remain a disruptive economic phenomenon, a radical political threat, and an insidious social affliction - unless a long term focused security group is established to continuously coordinate, evaluate and inform CT decisions and efforts undertaken in the region with the end in view of making the overall trade environment safer, stronger and better for all.
The point in all this is that in the end APEC's economic development and the creation of a trans-Pacific community founded and sustained on mutual understanding of various cultures and visions will be dependent on the establishment and spread of peace and stability in the region. Without peace and stability, it will be difficult to secure a reasonable sense of predictability for converging strategies that will ultimately assure successful achievement of our common goals.
Many do not realize this but the whole world is watching our Task Force and what it can do. The story of the CTTF could very well be the opportunity of the APEC to show the best of what it has in the community of nations. We carry on our shoulders the burden of doing well not only for the Asia-Pacific region but the burden of doing well for the sake of mankind.
When I spoke at the STAR Conference last year, I assured you that the Task Force on terrorism would be the light of the STAR and be a model for the world. Today I am happy to say that this model has shone and will continue to shine.
Thank you.