Philippines, India discuss maritime cooperation

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino and Indian maritime experts have discussed prospects for maritime security cooperation between their countries.

The experts exchanged views on potential areas of cooperation in the Track 2 component of the Inaugural Philippines-India Maritime Dialogue, held in Manila last week.

The forum, organized by Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute, focused on maritime security cooperation and economic opportunities in the maritime industry which, from the private sector’s point of view, the two countries could pursue.

The panels of experts consisted of Filipino academics and political analysts, as well as experts from India’s National Maritime Foundation, led by Commodore Debesh Lahiri. NMF is an Indian think tank that focuses on maritime issues.

In a keynote address delivered on behalf of Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for bilateral relations and ASEAN affairs Maria Theresa Lazaro, Assistant Secretary Patrick Chuasoto said the Philippines “sees India as kindred, a natural partner in our efforts to strengthen the rules-based international order under persistent threats to undermine it.”

Chuasoto also thanked India for its recent open expression of support for the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea.

At the 5th meeting of the Philippines-India Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation held on June 29 at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and External Affairs Minister of India Dr. S. Jaishankar acknowledged the growing importance of the maritime sector for both countries and welcomed the bilateral Maritime Dialogue and the increased cooperation on hydrography.

They emphasized the importance of maritime domain awareness and called for early operationalization of the Standard Operating Procedure for the White Shipping Agreement between the Indian Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard.

The Philippines has existing maritime-oriented bilateral mechanisms with Australia, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, United Kingdom and the United States, under the auspices of DFA-Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office.

The NMF delegates also met, during their three-day visit, with the leaderships of the Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Navy to discuss possible opportunities for closer collaboration.

Stratbase ADRi and NMF hope to provide inputs to the agenda of the Track 1 Maritime Dialogue that the Philippine and Indian governments plan to convene within the next few months.

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