3rd ASEAN Maritime Forum
Manila, 3 October 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a distinct pleasure to address you this morning, at the opening of the 3rd ASEAN Maritime Forum. I warmly welcome all of you to Manila.
This forum is convened at a time when the world is looking attentively at Asia, and particularly at ASEAN. Now, more than ever, the world seems to realize what we in the region envisioned when ASEAN was first established 45 years ago – that a strong and united ASEAN is essential for regional peace and prosperity. More than this, a strong and united ASEAN is good for the entire global community of nations.
I am therefore deeply heartened that the 3rd ASEAN Maritime Forum converges here in the Philippines.
As a nation composed of 7,107 islands with a strong maritime tradition, the Philippines is in my opinion, the most natural venue for the 3rd ASEAN Maritime Forum and the 1st ASEAN Expanded Maritime Forum. It is our sincerest hope that the hosting of these important events shall make lasting and tangible contributions to the ongoing process of ASEAN Community-building.
Within Southeast Asia, ASEAN stands as the foundation for regional cooperation. As our ten countries strive harder towards building a rules-based and people-oriented ASEAN Community, it is in our collective interest to deepen ASEAN cooperation across all fronts, to include maritime cooperation and security, as well as maritime connectivity and the protection of the marine environment.
Providing an equally profound frame to our efforts is the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). We are reminded of our equally crucial duty to reaffirm our resolve and commitment to uphold the principles of this seminal international law. It is thus important to situate this critical international law mechanism in today’s context, and one of the sessions later this week will seek to do just that.
It is in the foremost interests of ASEAN to develop common approaches to address shared challenges and opportunities in the various maritime-related fields. Increasing maritime cooperation creates a dynamic of greater mutual trust and generates much needed confidence-building measures that can overcome whatever challenges that future may pose.
As our region reaps steady progress and development, this would indeed be a timely complement to the steps we take towards a common ASEAN market. Intra-ASEAN trade has already reached 25% of total ASEAN trade in 2011. This trend can only increase further as the future draws closer.
As ASEAN remains an open and outward-looking regional community, external trade with regional and international partners continues to drive economic growth. This intra- and inter-regional ASEAN trade depends heavily on shipping, especially of energy resources for the non-oil producing states in ASEAN.
It is therefore of vital importance to secure sea lanes of communication and continue combating piracy (and allied threats) to ensure freedom and safety of navigation in the seas of Southeast Asia.
To this end, the Philippines staunchly supports initiatives such as the Information Sharing Centre of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia or ReCAAP. We likewise remain resolutely committed to joint naval exercises such as the annual Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training or SEACAT so as to enhance the region’s maritime security capabilities.
For its part, the ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint specifically identifies maritime cooperation and maritime security as key areas for cooperation.
At the 20th ASEAN Summit held in Phnom Penh in April this year, Leaders adopted the “Phnom Penh Declaration on ASEAN: One Community, One Destiny” which reaffirmed ASEAN Member States’ commitment to enhance and expand efforts in maritime cooperation and joint collaborative efforts in maritime related fields for common benefit, including the framework of the ASEAN Maritime Forum.
Following the wisdom and mandate given by the ASEAN Leaders, enhancing maritime cooperation and maritime security can be a coveted win-win situation for the entire ASEAN community.
Strengthening interaction in these fields, based on mutual trust and respect, not only promotes greater peace, security and stability in the region, but also stimulates business, trade and investments, as well as increases people-to-people linkages and exchanges.
To give wind to these sails, actions to implement sea connectivity under the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity adopted by the ASEAN Leaders at the 17th ASEAN Summit in 2010 are well under way. The 33rd ASEAN Senior Transport Officials Meeting last May highlighted the Philippine proposal for an ASEAN-wide roll-on-roll-off or Ro-Ro system as a priority project under the Master Plan.
The protection of the marine environment is likewise a shared concern which ASEAN, as a community of socially and environmentally conscious societies, should do more to address, given the very real concerns of climate change, disaster risk management and sustainable development.
ASEAN pursues cooperation on this front through various interfaces with other organizations. In sustainable fisheries development in the region, there exists a longstanding strategic partnership between ASEAN and the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center or SEAFDEC. A similarly robust and enduring alliance on conservation between the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity and the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia or PEMSEA was reaffirmed earlier this year.
In all these endeavors, ASEAN’s achievement of its goals can only be hastened by engaging with relevant stakeholders, such as the maritime training institutes, ship owners, the academe, and civil society.
It gives me great joy to see that these stakeholders have been invited to participate in the deliberations of the 3rd ASEAN Maritime Forum and the 1st Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum. Their contributions can only strengthen the measures that we seek to forge.
I also wish to note the discussions on maritime security within the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting and the ASEAN Regional Forum, and discussions regarding connectivity and protection of the marine environment in the ASEAN Transportation Ministers’ Meetings and Environment Ministers’ Meeting. The work of these bodies remains invaluable and should continue.
At the same time, there is a need to develop a comprehensive regional framework and cooperative platform on maritime issues within the region, which can integrate these different initiatives into a holistic ASEAN maritime agenda.
Without duplicating the work of relevant ASEAN bodies, the ASEAN Maritime Forum should be institutionalized as the comprehensive and cooperative platform for strategic engagement.
For two years now, the ASEAN Maritime Forum has served as such a venue for ASEAN members for cross-sectoral policy consultation and maritime activity coordination. Last year’s meeting in Pattaya, Thailand identified the safety and security of sea lanes from piracy and transnational crime, enhanced maritime domain awareness, and the development of cooperative arrangements on search and rescue and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as key points.
With the recognition that the stakeholders on ASEAN’s maritime matters are diverse and extend beyond the region and formal government channels, this year marks the inaugural meeting of the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum.
Before this forum breaks out into its various sessions, I wish to challenge the notion that our geography does not lend itself well to regionalization. Various bodies of water seem to separate peninsulas from islands, and our individual countries from each other. And yet, four-and-a-half decades since its inception in 1967, ASEAN remains robust and relevant. More than its resilience, it is in fact headed towards greater integration come 2015, when an ASEAN Community finally becomes a reality. In seeing our tides come in, we must consider that our seas and waterways do not separate us from one another, but rather, connect us.
It is my fervent hope and that of the Philippines that through the ASEAN Maritime Forum, maritime cooperation and security will become a strong and visible pillar of a stable and prosperous ASEAN Community.
I pray that your work over the next two days be geared towards realizing this vision.
I wish all of you fruitful discussions during this Forum and I join my nation and the entire ASEAN region in looking forward to the recommendations that shall result.
Thank you very much and good morning.
Mabuhay ang ASEAN!