Multilateralism is best for PH’s maritime security — expert
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government should turn to multilateralism in working towards a robust defense posture and secure civil maritime sector, according to a security expert.
“We have acknowledged that China’s intentions in the South China Sea are not benign,” Chester Cabalza, president and founder of the International Development and Security Cooperation, said in his paper, Philippine Civil and Maritime Security: Transforming from Archipelagic to Maritime Power, launched recently by think tank Stratbase ADR Institute.
Stratbase shared excerpts of the paper in a media release on Wednesday.
According to Cabalza, multilateralism or organizing relations with multiple states, is more welcome than exclusive bilateralism because the Philippines’ porous borders and strategic geographical formation are relatively primordial in improving its maritime security.
He noted that the Philippines’ “diplomatic and economic rapprochements” with Beijing through bilateralism “certainly missed out on the golden opportunity to spread a unified narrative to the international community and against its maritime rival in the South China Sea despite the strong support for its arbitral ruling awarded at The Hague.”
“The soft pedal and meek policy in the West Philippine Sea saw the continuous incursions and expansions of China’s coast guard and maritime militia,” he pointed out.
The next President, said Cabalza, should therefore address these gaps and missed opportunities. He also said that military reform, specifically in instilling transparency and accountability, is crucial in pursuing stable security structures.
“The AFP should improve its human, organizational, and information capital. It shall build a culture of jointness and establish integrated secure communications and information system to institutionalize integrated joint logistics support systems and develop a professional and highly motivated regular and reserve force,” Cabalza noted.
Cabalza’s findings and recommendations were echoed in a virtual forum and book launch organized by Stratbase in partnership with Bower Group Asia (BGA) on April 5.
Stratbase ADR Institute president Professor Victor Andres “Dindo” Manhit stressed the need for the Philippines to craft a more responsive and strategic foreign policy as part of an interconnected international society.
“Due to the growing military power of China, the Philippines should utilize its expansive network in securing the freedom of the seas and to counter aggressive behavior from China’s maritime militia,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ernest Bower IV, president and CEO of BGA, mentioned how the United States could show its commitment to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region even as it had announced its Indo-Pacific Strategy and Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
Dr. Prashanth Parameswaran, Deputy Head of Research at the BGA and Fellow at The Wilson Center – Asia Program, noted that the Biden administration is trying to find its own feet with respect to working with allies.
For his part, Jim Carouso, Senior Adviser at BGA and Australia Chair for Center for Strategic and International Studies, said pressure from China is an avenue where the United States and the Philippines should cooperate in order to understand the nature of the threat.
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