Department of Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said the government is looking at opportunities to collaborate with other countries to strengthen Philippine maritime capabilities.
Bautista made the statement during the Pilipinas Conference 2022, organized by think-tank Stratbase ADR Institute.
Bautista said recognizes that the Philippine maritime industry is a crucial component in the country’s socio-economic rebound from the global pandemic.
However, he also noted how the country’s maritime industry “has remained underdeveloped because of divergent policies and lack of consistency in project implementation”.
“The Philippines aims to be a major maritime nation that values the safety and protection of marine life and marine environment. We look at opportunities to forge collaborations with maritime-related agencies of other countries to benchmark our efforts at raising our maritime industry to global standards,” he said.
“I think it’s very important we collaborate with more countries, more agencies, for us to be able to ensure maritime safety and security in Philippine waters. Because this will also help our ships that traverse over international waters to be secure and safe.”
Bautista also welcomed the partnership between the Philippine and Australian governments in enhancing the country’s maritime capabilities.
Australia meanwhile is investing P3.5 billion in regional maritime programs, and the Philippines will be benefiting from this funding through training, capacity building, vessel sustainment, and marine environment projects.
In his speech at the Pilipinas Conference 2022, Acting Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Richard Sisson said Australia is ready to expand cooperation with the Philippines.
“Australia is an open economy deeply enmeshed in the global trading system. 83% of our merchandise trade is carried by sea, and most of it, comes through the South China Sea. About 70% of it passes through the Sulu sea. The stats alone should suggest to you, reveal to you, just why maritime law is so important to Australia, and why the
Philippines is so important to Australia,” he explained.
Sisson also discussed the importance of enforcing maritime rules such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and respecting and abiding by the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Ruling.
“Australia is deeply concerned when countries pursue their claims or engage in activities that are inconsistent with international law, when they undertake activities that are provocative and destabilizing. When they don’t respect the rights and freedoms of others. When they advance their claims by intimidation and coercion,” he said.
“We have committed to upholding international law, and in particular, the law at sea, and this is why we invest in maritime partnerships in the region, to build maritime domain awareness, and to combat challenges like illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” Mr. Sisson explained.
Stratbase ADRi President Professor Dindo Manhit also emphasized the importance of fostering multilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.
“As the dynamics of the Indo-Pacific continue to shape the shared future of states, fostering multilateral cooperation is crucial to addressing destabilizing forces in the region, particularly in the maritime domain.For the Philippines, its engagements must have the national interest as the guiding principle in its independent foreign policy,” he explained.
“Given the mutual interests in the Indo-Pacific, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. and his administration must continue to advance the Philippines’ defense cooperation with credible partners and other like-minded states to address security threats in the region effectively. This will enable the Philippines to build a robust and reliable defense posture as well as build its capacity as a reliable partner in the Indo-Pacific,” Prof. Manhit said.
Moreover, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Jesus Gary Domingo said the Philippine government is working hard to develop a stronger regional network of Coast Guard and maritime law enforcement authorities.
“An initiative which is gaining ground is the ASEAN Coast Guard Forum, which the Philippines has helped to spearhead… The ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defense Minister’s Plus are invaluable catalysts for confidence building among all the maritime security stakeholders in the Indo-Pacific,” he said.
“Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response is an excellent activity in which the militaries of all nations engage in and offer opportunities for positive regional maritime cooperation… Counter-terrorism and piracy offer another great opportunity for multilateral and regional security cooperation,” Usec. Domingo added