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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Analyst: Strengthen united front with like-minded states on WPS

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A geopolitical analyst urged the government to continue working with like-minded states in addressing concerns in the West Philippine Sea in 2024.

“The international community is an advocate of promoting peace and stability in the region… Our united front allows us to remain firm against aggressive and coercive acts disrupting our peace,” Stratbase ADR Institute President Dindo Manhit said during a forum entitled, “Fostering Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Towards 2024.”

Manhit said this year saw like-minded states repeatedly expressing their support for the Philippines’ arbitral victory and vowing to stand with the country in defending the rules-based international order.

“As we close 2023, the Philippines should be in a better position to confront the risks in the West Philippine Sea by building on its capabilities and ironing out interoperability with like-minded states. In the same manner, it should continue to involve the public and expose the coercive tactics employed by aggressive states,” he said.

Manhit said the Philippines became a focal point of geopolitical tension in the Indo-Pacific this year, as China continued to conduct gray zone operations in key areas of the West Philippine Sea.

These include the intimidation of civilian Filipino fishing vessels, conducting a series of water cannon incidents, damaging coral reefs, and spreading disinformation among others.

Manhit also warned of the emergence of new security challenges in 2024.

“Cybersecurity will be at the center of foreign relations and military strategies in the coming months. This is gaining more traction as more people experience cyber risks in their daily use of the internet. As we confront existing and evolving risks, the national interest must remain paramount in our policy implementation,” he said.

“Our interconnected and interdependent futures hinge on fostering collaborative efforts and sustainable partnerships among nations while ensuring that our shared goals align with the evolving needs of the Philippine society. Let us continue to do so in the coming years,” he added.

For her part, Moya Collett, Australian Deputy Head of Mission to the Philippines, said these are consequential times for the Indo-Pacific region.

She identified recent significant developments in Philippine-Australia relations, most notably the elevation of the two countries’ bilateral partnership to a strategic partnership during the visit of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to Manila in September this year.

Other highlights include the conclusion of Exercise Alon as part of Australia’s Indo-Pacific Endeavor 2023 in August, and visits of key government officials from both countries.

“The key focus is maritime cooperation,” said Collett, adding that Australia is also a maritime country that depends on a region governed by accepted rules and norms.

“We want a peaceful South China Sea where laws are respected and waterways are open for trade. Adherence to the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea is vital to the region,” she added.

South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Lee Sang Hwa also emphasized the importance of a stable maritime architecture for both Manila and Seoul.

“Cementing rules-based order in this region is key to taking a leap forward for both Korea and the Philippines. As the Philippines seeks to become an upper middle-income country soon and Korea aspires to be included in the G7+ group, securing a stable and thriving maritime architecture has become vital for both countries,” he said.

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