Proceedings of 123rd Maritime Forum

The 123rd Maritime Forum was held at the NDCP last 30-June-2017, 0800-1200H. The Maritime Forum is one of the activities the Maritime League, “a non­profit Filipino maritime foundation was established in 1990 to address the need for an organization, which will help spur progress in the maritime sector and advance the interest of the maritime profession and the maritime industry as a whole in the Philippines.” The Maritime Forum is monthly event where various key leaders in the industry and related maritime agencies are invited.

The 123rd Maritime Forum had the following objectives: 1) to discuss recent developments in the South China Sea (SCS); 2) to discuss the government development and security policies; and 3) to discuss security observations from the Korean peninsula.

A total of seventy participants from the military, civilian government agencies, and civil society were invited as participants of the forum.

The workshop featured the lectures of the following: Mr Rostum J Bautista, MNSA, Chief, Research and Special Studies Division, NDCP; Ms Amelia A Menardo, Chief Economic Development Specialist, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA); Undersecretary Vicente M Agdamag, Deputy Director­General, National Security Council (NSC) Secretariat; and Secretary Rafael M Alunan Ill, Former Secretary, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Opening Remarks by Commodore Carlos L Agustin AFP (Ret), President, Maritime League

In his opening remarks, Commodore Agustin thanked everyone for participating in the event. He expressed his gratitude to the NDCP for hosting the Maritime Forum for the 3rd time. Commodore Agustin also noted that the Maritime League celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Welcome Remarks by Rear Admiral Roberto Q Estioko AFP (Ret), PhD, MNSA, President, NDCP

In his welcome remarks, Admiral Estioko thanked Commodore Agustin and the Maritime League for partnering with NDCP in hosting the Maritime Forum. The NDCP President also noted that in view of the transition of leadership, the country experiences varying degrees of transformation in the domestic and foreign policies, especially on peace and security, which will significantly impact on the pressing defense and security concerns within and outside the Philippines. Taking a close look at the existing security policies and national interests, and if the country is to ponder on its impact on national security, a thorough discussion of these policies, its nature, scope, nuances, applicability, mechanisms, and the pertinent debates is an unquestionable imperative. Such is the very basis and the intention of the activity, Admiral Estioko stressed. The NDCP President thanked the speakers for the coming to the event.

“Managing Tensions for Peace and Development: Observations on President Duterte’s South China Sea Approach” by Mr Rostum J Bautista, MNSA, Chief, Research and Special Studies Division, NDCP

After presenting an overview of the SCS dispute and developments leading to Manila’s decision to file an arbitration case against Beijing before the international arbitral tribunal, Bautista argued that the Duterte administration’s foreign policy approach could be described as hedging. International relations scholar,  , said hedging is “an insurance-seeking behavior wherein a sovereign actor pursues deliberately ambiguous policies vis-a­vis competing powers to prepare for a fallback position should circumstances change.” Its objective is to “acquire as many returns from different powers as possible when relations are positive, while simultaneously seeking to offset long-term risks that might arise in worst-case scenarios.”

Against the backdrop of hedging, Bautista discussed the diplomatic, economic, and military tracks of the foreign policy of the Duterte government. On the diplomatic front, the Duterte administration has pursued the following: 1) independent foreign policy; 2) restraint and peaceful resolution of disputes; 3) pragmatism; and 4) development-oriented foreign policy. On the economic front, President Duterte has promoted intensified trade and investments with China, Russia, and Japan. On the military front, the government has pursued and/or continued: 1) AFP Modernization Program; 2) continuation of PH-US Alliance; and 3) enhancing and forging strategic partnerships. In conclusion, Bautista argued that these policies are a combination of economic pragmatism, binding-engagement, and limited-bandwagoning-which are elements of hedging.

“Overview of the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 and Ambisyon 2040,” by Ms Amelia A Menardo, Chief, Services Division, Trade, Services and Industry Staff National Development, Office for Policy and Planning, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)

At the outset of her lecture, Menardo noted that the motivation behind the AmBisyon Natin 2040, a long-term economic vision for the Philippines, is the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) projection of Asian economies by 2050. There will be 7 economies that will lead Asia’s march to prosperity (South Korea, Japan, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand). However, the ADB study indicated that the Philippines would be left out of the boom, overtaken by India and Viet Nam, along with Mongolia and Cambodia. As such, NEDA has taken steps to put the Philippines in the forefront of growth in Asia.

Menardo pointed out that AmBisyon Natin 2040 has to be the basis for the development planning across political administrations. Nonetheless, Ms Menardo noted, there has to be some flexibility to adapt to unexpected developments and changing needs and preferences and this is why NEDA went short of formulating a long-term plan. Menardo then explained the specifics of the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022, the first PDP to be anchored on AmBisyon Natin 2040. The objective of the current administration’s development plan is that more Filipinos will be closer to achieving their AmBisyon for a “matatag, maginhawa at panatag na buhay.” The PDP will therefore aim to lay down a solid foundation for more inclusive growth, a high-trust and resilient society, and a globally competitive knowledge economy. The strategies fall under the three major pillars of “Malasakit, Pagbabago, and Patuloy na Pag-unlad.”

“National Security Policy 2017-2022: For Change and Well-Being of the Filipino People,” Undersecretary Vicente M Agdamag, Deputy Director-General, National Security Council Secretariat

In his lecture, Undersecretary Agdamag, presented the National Security Policy (NSP) 2017-2022, which he noted is a companion of the PDP. Undersecretary Agdamag also shared that the national security vision articulated in the NSP 2017-2022 is for the Philippines to become “A Secure and Developed Nation wherein the people’s welfare, well-being, ways of life; government and its institutions; sovereignty; and core values are enhanced and protected.” The national security vision of the Government is motivated by the following national interests: 1) public safety and order; 2) territorial integrity; 3) economic solidarity; 4) ecological balance; 5) cultural cohesiveness; 6) moral and spiritual consensus; and 7) external peace and harmony. Undersecretary  explained the internal and external security environment of the Philippines as understood in the NSP.

The NSP notes the following internal security concerns: 1) law and order and criminalities; 2) internal armed conflicts; 3) terrorism and transnational crimes; and 4) economic and social threats.

The external security concerns include: 1) overlapping territorial claims and other regional concerns; 2) global and regional geopolitical issues; and 3) global uncertainty and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The NSP also included other strategic issues and challenges: 1) technological advances and threats of cyber-attacks; 2) climate change and its national security risks; and 3) institutional concerns.

Undersecretary Agdamag also shared the national security goals contemplated in the latest NSP which include:

1) promote public safety and order; 2) safeguard territorial integrity and sovereignty; 3) bolster economic strength and solidarity; 4) protect and preserve ecological balance; 5) advance cultural cohesiveness; 5) promote moral-spiritual consensus; and 6) contribute to global peace and harmony.

In discussing the means to the said goals, Undersecretary Agdamag explained that the NSP contains a chapter on resource generation for national security, which is divided into 4 parts, namely:

1) human resource development; 2) legislations and executive issuances; 3) funding and budgetary resources; and 4) strategic industries/flagship projects.

In discussing the strategic industries that are essential in achieving the aforementioned national security goals, Undersecretary Agdamag explained that they would include the industries in the Investment Priorities Plan as well as other industries including transportation industry, space industry, land combat system industry, weapons and munitions industry, and aircraft industry, among others.

In concluding his lecture, Undersecretary Agdamag explained that the NSP 2017-2022 contemplates the following elements of national security: cultural security, cyber security, disaster security, economic security, energy security, environmental security, food security, geostrategic security, health security, human security, informational security, and military and border security. The plebiscite would then be held in 2019 and by 2022, there will be an election for the first set of officials under the federal system.

“Learning from the Republic of Korea,” by Secretary Rafael M Alunan Ill, Former Secretary, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)

In his presentation, Secretary Alunan recounted the recent trip, which he and Commodore Agustin undertook in Republic of Korea (ROK), otherwise known as South Korea. At the invitation of the South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines, Kim Jae Shin, Secretary Alunan and Commodore Agustin travelled to ROK with the aim of further understanding the following issues: Politico-security matters on the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea, security alliance concerns, PH foreign policy, PH internal security issues, PH credible deterrence direction, supplier-client risk management, and ROK urban public safety and security systems.

Secretary Alunan also shared their experience at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in the 38th Parallel, the South Korea-North Korea border. The former DILG Chief noted that he and Commodore Agustin took photos of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) while the North Koreans also took pictures of them.

In a paper written by Commodore Agustin regarding the trip, the Maritime League President noted: “Our take away from the various discussions during the 4-day visit are summed up by Mr Alunan:

  1. A military solution to counter   is not a viable option. Regime change initiated within NoKor is the most acceptable option although the probability of that happening is low at this point. More sanctions, negotiations, defiance and tensions should be expected;
  2. The lack of U.S. resolve in the South China Sea: The Freedom of navigation operations prove ineffective so far. China has been taking full advantage of the situation. Security relationships are being adjusted and calibrated;
  3. ISIS or lslamist terrorism is not a security risk factor in ROK. Questions were raised about the efficacy of martial law and the country’s strategy to contain and defeat the problems of drugs and terror to protect our economic gains and boost investor confidence;
  4. The idea of dispersing ROK’s strategic industries to other parts of the region as a safety and security measure against a hot conflict on the peninsula was put on the table;
  5. Should ROK’s shipyards and aerospace industry be destroyed by NoKor, that would cripple our Navy and Air Force that would be unable to find spare parts to repair and maintain the combat assets we’re acquiring from ROK for credible deterrence; and
  6. The PH and ROK have common denominators in their security environment – the U.S., China, Russia and Japan. The conduct of diplomacy must be given careful attention.”

Open Forum

During the open forum, one of the participants pointed out that the Philippines must develop a sense of nationalism in order to fight for the country’s territorial rights. Another participant responded that the Philippines should not act tough without anything to back up its stance, and that the country must develop self-reliance, starting in the industry of shipbuilding.

A member of the audience gave tribute and declared respect for the Philippine Navy, but noted that while the agency was good in strategic planning, it still faced challenges when it came to implementation of such plans. This was followed by a suggestion of another participant to give more time regarding the West Philippine Sea (WPS) in the next forum. The same participant pointed out that there must be ways to get the Filipino people, especially the youth, directly involved in discussions regarding the WPS territorial disputes. Commodore Agustin agreed and noted that the Department of Education must carry out programs to educate the youth about the WPS. Brigadier General Rolando G Jungco AFP (Ret), NDCP Executive Vice President, added to this proposal, and noted that corrections must be made to simple things like posters and t-shirts, which display the Philippine map. He said that such maps must also display the disputed territories in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) such as Pag-Asa Island.

“Updates on the West Philippine Sea,” from the Philippine Navy, National Coast Watch Council, Department of Transportation, and Philippine Coast Guard

The open forum was followed by several agencies giving updates on WPS, including the Philippine Navy, National Coast Watch Council (NCWC), Department of Transportation (DOTr), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication.

The Philippine Navy discussed plans in establishing a forward operating base (FOB) and a littoral monitoring station (LMS) in the area of Batanes in order to address territorial security issues in the northern border of the country and its fishing grounds. The FOB will serve “as a permanent staging area that will fill in the identified gaps in Northern Seaboard specifically, the Bashi Channel and Balintang Channel.” The LOS, on the other hand, “will detect and monitor movement of vessels plying in these channels and the seas around Batanes.”

The NCWC noted it recently held a workshop where it was proposed that an executive order would promote maritime and archipelagic awareness of the country.

The DOTr proposed the creation of maritime museum in order to have appreciation of the country as archipelagic and maritime character.

The PCG noted its proposed port project in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG). The KIG project involves two piers: a small pier for fishing boats, and a larger one after for the vessels of the PCG and the Philippine Navy.

The Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication discussed its “Diskursong Teritoryo,” a campaign that aims to enhance the quality of public debate on the WPS and the Philippine Rise. It will celebrate in September “Mana Mo,” which stands for Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month.

Commodore Mariano S Sontillanosa AFP (Ret), Board Secretary, Maritime League, provided an overview of the upcoming “Maritime Conference 2017” to be held on 12-14 July 2017 at SMX Convention Hall, Manila.

After Admiral Estioko thanked the speakers and the audience for participating in the activity, Commodore Agustin adjourned the Forum.