MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines and Indonesia signed an agreement Friday resolving a sea border dispute after 20 years of negotiations, with the neighbors' leaders vowing to forge closer ties.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and outgoing Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono witnessed the signing by their foreign ministers of the deal defining the borders of the countries' Exclusive Economic Zones in the Mindanao Sea and Celebes Sea. They also signed agreements on cooperation on counterterrorism and higher education.
Aquino called the border agreement a milestone "that is founded on the principles of international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea."
"It serves as solid proof to our steadfast commitment to uphold the rule of law and pursue the peaceful and equitable settlement of maritime concerns," he added.
The Philippines is embroiled in a territorial spat with China in the South China Sea and has filed an arbitration case before an international tribunal in The Hague.
Yudhoyono is in the country also to attend the World Economic Forum on East Asia, where he received the Global Statesmanship Award on Friday. He said in a speech at the forum that he leaves office in October with a sense of pride for that Indonesia has "achieved that critical political point of no return in our democratic development."
"We have broken the myth, the fear, that democracy will unravel national unity and instead democracy has made us more united," he said. "We have become an example that democracy, Islam and modernity can go hand in hand."
He said Indonesia's achievements were made in a relatively short time, within 10 years since Reformasi, referring to democratic reforms that began after the resignation of Indonesian strongman Suharto in 1998.