Oct 13, 2012

Philippines - Asean Maritime Forum breaks new ground for maritime cooperation

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The first Expanded Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Maritime Forum (EAMF) was a historic first in maritime security and cooperation among the 18 member-countries of the East Asia Summit (EAS).

“The main message of the First Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum is to highlight the necessity and utility of enhancing maritime cooperation among all the countries in the East Asia Summit,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Erlinda F. Basilio said at the conclusion of the forum in Manila on October 5.

“Only by working together can we secure the promise of a vibrant, economically prosperous and politically stable and peaceful East Asia,” she said.

The EAMF gathered for the first time government officials and experts from international organizations, maritime industries, the academe and civil society from the ten member countries of Asean, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States to discuss cross-cutting maritime issues, a statement from the Department Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

The meeting was held back-to-back with the third Asean Maritime Forum (AMF), held in Manila on October 3 to 4 and was participated in by only Asean members.

“The nature and scope of our discussions throughout the Expanded Asean Maritime Forum have shown us that it is important for us to continue our strategic dialogue and collaborative engagement. The presence of relevant stakeholders involved in maritime issues adds value to the work of the EAMF and contributes to the formulation of comprehensive, multi-sectoral collaborative approaches,” Basilio said.

She emphasized that with greater trust and openness, the 18 member-countries of the East Asia Summit can identify concrete means to intensify maritime dialogue and cooperation to generate confidence-building measures for mutual benefit.

The roundtable sessions during the EAMF focused on the relevance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in today's context; maritime connectivity and capacity building, including infrastructure and equipment upgrading and seafarers' training; and identifying best practices of cooperation in protecting the marine environment and promoting eco-tourism and fishery regime in East Asia.

On the UNCLOS, delegates acknowledged the importance of universally-recognized principles of international law, specifically UNCLOS, in providing a rules-based framework for maritime security and cooperation in the region, as well as for addressing the issue of conflicting claims, according to the Chairman's Statement issued by Basilio.

Discussions on enhancing maritime connectivity examined strategies for capacity building in infrastructure and equipment.

The forum welcomed the proposal of the United States to partner with an Asean member-state to establish an Expanded Asean Seafarers’ Training Program (EAST) for civilian maritime personnel.

On protecting the marine environment, delegates highlighted the need to involve all stakeholders, including local communities, in efforts to protect of the region's marine resources, such as eco-tourism and sustainable fisheries management and development.

The EAMF was convened in response to the statement of East Asia Summit members at the sixth EAS Summit in Bali, Indonesia in November 2011 that encouraged a “dialogue involving EAS participating countries to utilize opportunities and address common challenges on maritime issues building upon the existing Asean Maritime Forum (AMF).” (DFA/PIA PND)

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