The Department of National Defense (DND) remains committed in ensuring the Philippines’ maritime security amid multifaceted challenges and competing interests in the regional waters.
This was emphasized by Defense Undersecretary Cardozo Luna in his speech at the 146th Maritime Forum at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.
However, the official said the Philippines will need the help of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-countries in dealing with its maritime issues.
Luna, who represented Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in the forum, said the country needs to pursue a “calibrated, comprehensive and constructive” approach which “espouses peace and diplomacy” in coping up with the vulnerabilities of our maritime security.
“We need to acknowledge that our country cannot do it alone as maritime security is innately transnational and cross-jurisdictional,” Luna said.
The competing claims in the West Philippine Sea, primarily between the Philippines and China among other claimants, is undeniably a top maritime concern.
Thus, the official said the Philippines is prompted to “pursue functional cooperation with China and other claimant-countries while securing our national territory, sovereign rights over our maritime claims and entitlements.”
With this, he stressed the relevance of multilateralism through the ASEAN in the negotiation of the Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea [West Philippine Sea] and the strengthening of the Trilateral Cooperative Agreement with Malaysia and Indonesia.
“Our country is capitalizing on the strong alliance of the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations], which consistently espouses regional and multilateral cooperation and discussions,” Luna said.
Luna’s statements came in the wake of the sinking of local fishing boat Gem-Ver1 after it was hit by a Chinese-flagged vessel.
Twenty-two Filipino fishermen aboard the sunken fishing boat were abandoned by the Chinese vessel. The fishermen were later rescued by Vietnamese fishermen.
President Duterte earlier called what happened at the Recto Bank as a “little maritime accident.”
The 146th Maritime Forum, hosted by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), continues to remain as a platform for the Maritime League’s “timely, collaborative and productive” session on the country’s maritime concerns.
The Maritime Forum was institutionalized in 1995.