Group urges gov’t to work with like-minded states in addressing WPS issue
MANILA, Philippines — The government was urged to continue working with “like-minded states” in addressing issues in the West Philippine Sea in 2024, an international research organization said on Saturday.
According to Stratbase ADR Institute (ADRi), its President Dindo Manhit, a geopolitical analyst, aired the advice during the Fostering Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Towards 2024 forum on Tuesday, Nov. 28.
Citing Manhit in a press release, ADRi said like-minded states, this year, repeatedly expressed their support for the Philippines’ arbitral victory. They committed to stand with the country in defending the rules-based international order.
“The international community is an advocate of promoting peace and stability in the region. Our united front allows us to remain firm against aggressive and coercive acts disrupting our peace,” Manhit said.
“As we close 2023, the Philippines should be in a better position to confront the risks in the West Philippine Sea by building on its capabilities and ironing out interoperability with like-minded states. In the same manner, it should continue to involve the public and expose the coercive tactics employed by aggressive states,” he added.
Manhit further pointed out that the Philippines has been a focal point of geopolitical tension in the Indo-Pacific.
He said that China continued its operations in the West Philippine Sea. He then recalled activities such as the intimidation of Filipino fishing vessels, a series of water cannon attacks, damaging coral reefs, and spreading disinformation about the matter done by China.
On the other hand, Manhit also warned about the emergence of new security challenges next year.
“Cybersecurity will be at the center of foreign relations and military strategies in the coming months. This is gaining more traction as more people experience cyber risks in their daily use of the internet,” he said.
“As we confront existing and evolving risks, the national interest must remain paramount in our policy implementation,” he added.
With this, he reiterated that like-minded states, in the following years, need to continue working together against such challenges.
“As our Institute continuously advocates, our interconnected and interdependent futures hinge on fostering collaborative efforts and sustainable partnerships among nations while ensuring that our shared goals align with the evolving needs of the Philippine society,” he said.
The Philippines’ partnerships
Meanwhile, ADRi said Dr. Moya Collett, Australian Deputy Head of Mission to the Philippines, identified recent significant developments between the Philippines and Australia, such as the elevation of the countries’ bilateral partnership to a strategic partnership.
According to Collet, with Australia also a maritime country that depends on a region governed by accepted rules and norms, the key focus is maritime cooperation.
Collet noted the consequential times for the Indo-Pacific region.
“We want a peaceful South China Sea where laws are respected and waterways are open for trade,” she said.
“Adherence to the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea is vital to the region,” she added.
For the Republic of Korea Ambassador to the Philippines Lee Sang Hwa, a stable maritime architecture is important between the countries.
“Cementing rules-based order in this region is key to taking a leap forward for both Korea and the Philippines,” he said.
“As the Philippines seeks to become an upper middle-income country soon and Korea aspires to be included in the G7+ group, securing a stable and thriving maritime architecture has become vital for both countries,” he added.
The ambassador likewise said that they believe that a “free and open Indo-pacific” is a key to a “thriving, connected, and stable regional environment.”
In the forum, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Commandant Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan likewise said the agency is open to partnerships with anyone.
Gavan said the PCG pursues the mission to help achieve peace based on rules, and that they are reaching out to friends and partners to develop the local shipbuilding industry.
“We can only win if we are supported by a strong industrial base,” he said.
He then noted their agency’s main pursuits, which include international cooperation and engagement.