Philippines seeking int'l boost in UN council seat

By Agence France-Presse

THE PHILIPPINES is hoping for both a political and economic boost from its election as one of the 10 non-permanent members on the United Nations (UN) Security Council last week.

Philippine ambassador to the UN Lauro Baja said the council seat, which he will hold for a two-year term beginning January 1, was a sign of renewed international faith in the country, which has not been on the council since the 1980s.

"It represents a new era of Philippine engagement in global diplomacy," Baja said in an interview with Agence France-Presse at the UN headquarters in New York.

"Whether you are in the administration or the opposition, the Philippines' being in the Security Council puts us in an elevated status."

Baja said that with investors worried about stability and terrorism, and regional crises like North Korea's nuclear program simmering, the vote was a welcome shot in the arm for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her administration.

The President hailed the election in a national address Friday after the Philippines was selected along with Algeria, Benin, Brazil, and Romania to replace five countries whose council term ends this year.

She called it a "recognition of the Philippines' firm stand against terrorism."

Ambassador Baja echoed her remarks and noted the country would not automatically follow the lead of the United States, which has given military and financial aid to the Philippines as part of its anti-terror drive.

He said the dominance of the world's remaining superpower was unavoidable on the council -- which was set up by the UN charter to oversee peace and security -- but stressed that did not mean bending to Washington's will.

"We will sit on the council and vote on the council bearing in my mind, always, our national interests," said Baja, adding that he believes the clout of the elected 10 members is perhaps underestimated.

He downplayed suggestions that the council or the UN, after failing to reach consensus on the war in Iraq, has proven to be irrelevant in the face of the new global realities.

"At the moment of danger or intended conflict, the first thing that comes to the mind of leaders or comes to the mind of the nation is to go to the UN," said Baja, former Philippine ambassador to both Italy and Brazil.

"For the organization to be effective, it must strive also to keep the United States engaged in the UN. It must keep the United States interested."

He said criticism of US policy was often "too brutal" in the open forum of the world body, and suggested that many nations were grandstanding to benefit their political constituencies back home.

"If there is a total divorce and separation between the US and UN, the result is a catastrophe," he said.

In addition to the permanent five -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- 10 nations rotate through two-year terms, five of them moving on in alternate years.

Because all resolutions need nine votes to pass, the "Elected 10" could have the power to stop resolutions and help smooth out some of the differences among the famously divisive permanent five, he said.

"The E-10 is a powerful voice on the council and we hope that we could contribute to a unified E-10," Baja said.

"We also have this vision of being a bridge for the P-5 on certain issues."

Baja acknowledged that one of the trickiest issues facing the council in the months to come is the standoff with Pyongyang over its nuclear program.

"The DPRK (North Korea) is one of the most intractable situations which the international community is facing, simply because we do not really know what they have in mind," he said.


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