Australia: PH ally for peace, stability, security | Inquirer Opinion
Commentary

Australia: PH ally for peace, stability, security

/ 04:15 AM December 05, 2022

We live in a decidedly different, more complex, less stable world. There have been global power shifts and realignments. The same can be said about what is happening in our region, the Indo- Pacific. Home to great power politics, especially in the maritime domain, the region is seeing major powers competing strategically, and both traditional and nontraditional threats constantly undermining peace and stability. Transnational crimes, environmental degradation, gray zone operations—all of these make us feel less safe, less secure.

Given all these, Indo-Pacific states like the Philippines must acknowledge their joint responsibility and commitment to collective peace and stability. This commitment is manifested by upholding and adhering to international laws, treaties, and policies, as well as promoting a rules-based international order and forming alliances with like-minded countries.

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One such like-minded state is Australia.

We at the Stratbase ADR Institute had the honor and privilege of having Richard Sisson, acting ambassador of the Australian Embassy in the Philippines, during our Pilipinas Conference held last Nov. 21-22.

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In his opening remarks to the panel discussion “Fostering Multilateral Cooperation in Addressing Maritime Security Challenges in the Indo-Pacific,” Sisson reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to adherence to the law of the sea principle set out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

The Unclos, he said, is particularly important because it provides the legal framework for all activities in the ocean and the sea. “It provides the foundation for peace, security, and stability, and for the use of maritime resources,” he said.

Sisson said this commitment is the reason his country has invested in maritime partnerships in the region—to build maritime domain awareness, and to combat challenges like illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

“This is also why we continue to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight, and to support the rights of others to do the same, and strengthen relationships with regional partners,” he said.

These statements are backed by tangible figures that would benefit the Philippines — specifically, some P3.5 billion in investments in regional maritime programs in the support areas of training, capacity building, vessel sustainment, and marine environment projects.

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Australia’s role in the region has grown. The country, in pronouncements made during engagements with the international community, has identified several objectives fundamental to its prosperity and security. These objectives include promoting an open, inclusive, and prosperous Indo-Pacific where the rights of all states — not just those of the big and mighty — are recognized, protecting a rules-based international order, and promoting the free flow of trade, capital, and ideas.

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Australia’s initiatives in the areas of maritime security are many. Foremost, it is a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) along with the United States, Japan, and India. The Quad primarily seeks to promote a free, open, prosperous, and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

In 2020, Australia signed a joint declaration on a shared vision for maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific with India.

In May 2022, together with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, it reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening cooperation at the 34th Asean-Australia Forum. This forum encouraged Australia’s partnership with Asean to advance maritime cooperation under the Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

In October 2022, Australia signed a joint security cooperation with Japan and committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes and an open, secure, and stable maritime domain.

In November 2022, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Philippine President Marcos Jr. expressed their intent to strengthen the two countries’ partnership in trade and national security. The two nations, through the 6th Philippines-Australia Strategic Dialogue, reaffirmed the importance of maritime cooperation activities including the conduct of maritime dialogues, joint exercises, capacity-building activities, training, and logistics support.

The Philippines is fortunate to have Australia standing alongside it in the pursuit of peace, stability, and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

May our alliance stay strong and long!

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

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