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Monday, February 26, 2024

Solidifying our alliance for a secure, cooperative Indo-Pacific

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“The expansionist aggression of China has created an alliance of nations committed to rightly assert the rules-based international order”

Active cooperation to sustain the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific region, especially in light of increasing encounters in the West Philippine Sea between Chinese Coast Guard and Philippine vessels, is the direction that like-minded states are committing not just with pronouncements but with holistic action.

The Indo-Pacific region is standing at a critical juncture, grappling with numerous challenges, especially in the maritime sphere.

Coercive actions such as the construction of islands as military outposts, constant intrusions of maritime vessels, and increasingly hostile maneuvers towards Philippine vessels by the Chinese Coast Guard and militia are threatening the stability, and security of the region.

Securing our maritime waters, particularly the West Philippine Sea, is a top priority for the current administration.

The deliberate collision caused by a Chinese Coast Guard vessel against Philippine vessels carrying out regular resupply missions to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal is yet another blatant act to bully us out of our territory.

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The President’s alliance building efforts havebeen reciprocated with strong commitments from the United States, Japan, Australia, and Germany to counter the challenges in the Indo-Pacific and to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific.

In the last week’s security round table organized by the Stratbase ADR Institute in partnership with the Embassies of Australia and South Korea, renewed commitments were highlighted to maintain a secure and cooperative maritime environment in the region.

South Korea’s Ambassador here, Lee Sang Hwa, underscored the significance of a stable maritime framework for both the Philippines and South Korea. He expressed his thoughts with a sense of urgency and importance.

He stated, “Cementing a rules-based order in this region is the key to propelling both Korea and the Philippines forward.”

He elaborated on the ambitions of both nations, with the Philippines aiming to become an upper middle-income country soon and Korea aspiring to join the G7+ group.

He stressed that securing a stable and thriving maritime architecture has become crucial for both countries.

He continued, “Our shared destiny is intrinsically linked to our ability to harness the potential benefits of the seas and to overcome its challenges.”

He painted a picture of the shifting geostrategic center of gravity to the Indo-Pacific.

He asserted his belief a free and open Indo-Pacific is the key to a thriving, connected, and stable regional environment.

Through his words, Ambassador Lee conveyed the intertwined fates of the Philippines and South Korea, and the pivotal role of a stable maritime framework as a shared journey towards progress.

Stratbase ADRi President, Prof. Dindo Manhit expressed optimism and lauded the partnership between the Philippines and South Korea as a “strategic necessity” that “is crucial for preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific, where adherence to international laws and the pursuit of stability are of utmost importance.”

“As South Korea actively expands its role in maintaining a rules-based order in regional waters, we are confident that the Philippines will extend its full support in the pursuit of maritime security and a free and open Indo-Pacific”

Prof. Manhit stressed the Indo Pacific’s immense potential for maritime cooperation, and the shared responsibility to hold aggressive states accountable for their actions, with international law as our guiding principle.

During the recently held, first Joint Service Staff Talks between the Philippines, United States, Japan, Australia held in Tokyo, the shared vision for a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ and a rules-based international order was reaffirmed.

This followed another high-level meeting of the Philippines, the US, and Australia on maritime cooperation punctuated by joint patrols in the West Philippine Sea.

The expansionist aggression of China has created an alliance of nations committed to rightly assert the rules-based international order that has fostered decades of peace and prosperity that actually, created the opportunities that greatly contributed to China’s rise as an economic power.

Instead of asserting its state powers to impose its nine-dash claim which has already been ruled to have no legal basis by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, Beijing should consider the potential of an alternative path that pivots towards becoming a responsible state that can play a strategic role in fostering an Indo-Pacific region of peace and co-prosperity.

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