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Bolster maritime ties in the Indo-Pacific

/ 04:10 AM July 18, 2022

The Stratbase Albert Del Rosario Institute commemorated the sixth anniversary of the July 12 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague by holding an international conference on “Redefining Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in an Age of Uncertainty.”

A victory of epic proportions, the legal recognition of our maritime rights is further attested to by the growing public concern on the West Philippine Sea issue.

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The Pulse Asia survey of June 24-27, 2022 that had been commissioned by Stratbase ADR Institute showed that almost nine out of 10 Filipinos, or 89 percent, believe that President Marcos Jr. must assert the country’s rights as stipulated in the arbitral ruling. To assert these rights, 90 percent agreed that the new administration must invest in the capability of the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard. On alliances, 84 percent agreed that the President should form alliances with other countries to defend our territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea.

At The Conservatory of The Peninsula Manila, global policy and thought leaders discussed the issues and opportunities in areas of multilateral and strategic cooperation, specifically on the collective concern over maritime security and emerging threats in the region.

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Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez said: “The shifting tides of geopolitics, the sustained tensions over competing claims, and the converging interests in the political, economic, military, and maritime domain could create flashpoints for security issues and conflict.”

Amid such uncertainties, Romualdez argued that “there is always the option of strategic restraint, and there are many benefits to an open and rules-based regional architecture.”

Lisa Curtis, director of the Indo-Pacific Security Program and Senior Fellow of the Center for a New American Security, stated that “standing up to China’s maritime aggression and taking steps against it are necessary to maintain a rules-based international order. And ultimately, this is the best way we can avoid any conflict.”

From a European viewpoint, Czech Republic Ambassador to the Philippines Jana Šedivá said: “We are seeking to conduct more joint exercises with Indo-Pacific partners, including multilateral exercises, to fight piracy and protect the freedom of navigation.”

Dr. Yusuke Takagi, an associate professor of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, discussed the three pillars of the Free and Open Indo Pacific: 1. the promotion and solidifying of the rule of law, freedom of navigation, free trade, etc.; 2. the pursuit of economic prosperity through enhancing connectivity; and 3. commitment for peace and stability.

John Blaxland, professor of international security and intelligence studies at the Australian National University, said: “We have an overwhelming amount of overlap of interest between Australia and the Philippines including our interests and our enemies. We can’t just sit on the fence. We have interests to defend. Our interests are being challenged. Our deterrents need to be bolstered.”

As the international conference demonstrated the awe-inspiring support of the international community for the Philippines’ legal victory, we should recognize the efforts made by partners and allies to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.

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With like-minded states, we face a new age of uncertainty in the maritime domain. This is a shared responsibility among Asean members and the international community.

With our collective will and effort, we must not allow any blatant disregard of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or of the rule of law by any state.

The Philippines is at a crossroads in its foreign policy, and the Filipinos expect nothing less from Mr. Marcos and his administration.

We deserve an adaptive, resilient, and pro-Filipino foreign policy that will allow the country to advance its strategic interests, address issues in the West Philippine Sea, and become a more significant player in regional and global affairs.

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Dindo Manhit is the founder and CEO of the Stratbase Group.

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TAGS: Commentary, Indo-Pacific maritime ties, Maritime Dispute, West Philippine Sea
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