Securing Regional Waters: The Philippines

Jun. 06, 2007


Sunday 3 June 2007


Hon Hermogenes E Ebdane Jr, Secretary of National Defense, The Philippines


Securing Regional Waters: The Philippines

Hermogenes E Ebdane Jr

Secretary of National Defence, The Philippines

Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Thank you for this opportunity to share the Philippine viewpoint on securing regional waterways and the progress that has been made. My discussion takes into account two key ideas that impact on the topic at hand. First, our connectivity as nations because of our waterways, and second, the emerging importance of defence roles vis--vis development goals as evidenced by our own experience in the Philippines.

Our viewpoint is that the same framework of defence for development can push our regular progress to secure our waterways and our nations as well. The current trend in securing our regional waters is bilateral cooperation. Much progress has been made in the areas of international dialogue, policy making and diplomacy. But we must ask ourselves if this is enough.

Our assured experience over recent times point to an emerging reality that any threat to our regional waterways is a threat to each of our countries. The same reality must mobilise us regional cooperation that goes beyond the bilateral standard of our times. This need for a larger scale alliance is informed by the basic fact we are connected by an invisible reality: the sea.

In Southeast Asia the sea is not the common void that divides but a medium that unites as hosts to the worlds most vital sea links of transport and commerce, our religion connects the cultures and commerce of east and west. This connection has shaped our history. Without the method of oceanic travel and trade, the entire connectedness of the economies and peoples of Southeast Asia would not have been even made possible much less sustained.

This interconnectivity defines our reality today. It is true the freedom of movement, as associated with the freedom of the sea, afforded by Governments and international institutions that we become part of one interdependent and globalised world system. This interconnectedness directs our future actions as one region, and the same connection also threatens our security as individual nations and as one region.

While the freedom of sea has enabled economic activity to flourish, the same principle that allows trans-national security threats to develop sophisticated forms of operation. When one establishes the links between this trans-national criminal elements and terrorism, the gravity of the challenge before us becomes even more vicious.

To confront these threats in an economically interdependent and socially connected world, we must go beyond unilateral and traditional methods. In this new evolving security environment it is no longer sufficient for security forces to just fight and win wars, be it on land or at sea. We have to confront the security challenges not only in the military context of war, but in the larger socio-economic and cultural contacts.

The good news is that we do not have to look beyond our regional borders to address these challenges within the larger context of our connectivity. Over time our connectivity as neighbours and allies, by virtue of our waterways has provided the building blocks we need to secure our regional waters on a forward-thinking, long-term basis.

Maritime security has been the focus of cooperative dialogue that has built the foundation for a new dimension in regional interaction. With the vision of establishing a nation community by 2020, the Asian Defence Ministerial Meeting of three year war program includes the promotion of measures to enhance maritime security as one key work area.

We also have experience of the success of the Straits of the Malacca in the security initiative which reduced the incidents of piracy in the worlds basis ceilings by 99%.

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