The Philippines and the United States launched their inaugural Maritime Dialogue in Manila on April 20.
The Dialogue, led by Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary for Maritime and Ocean Affairs Maria Angela Ponce and U.S. Department of State (USDS) Deputy Assistant Secretary Jung Pak, highlighted the successes of ongoing cooperative efforts and discussed ways for the two sides to cooperatively address current challenges and shared maritime concerns, especially in the South China Sea.
The Dialogue was established by the 9th Bilateral Strategic Dialogue held on November 15 and 16, 2021 in Washington D.C., as reflected in the Joint Vision Statement.
“It is no coincidence that this Maritime Dialogue was agreed upon during the 75th anniversary of our bilateral relations. These are not new roots we are planting, just new shoots to the trunk of this old tree that is the abiding alliance between the Philippines and the United States, that will grow to define and articulate the deepening maritime relations,” said Assistant Secretary Ponce.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Pak said the Dialogue allowed for a wide-ranging exchange, offering officials a greater understanding of shared priorities.
“Demonstrating our enduring commitment to the Indo-Pacific and our collaboration with our allies and partners will help us to achieve a free and open, interconnected, prosperous, resilient, and secure region for all,” said U.S. Embassy in the Philippines Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Heather Variava.
The delegations underscored their shared interest in a strengthened rules-based order in the South China Sea, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 Award on the South China Sea arbitration.
The Dialogue also discussed challenges to Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction; the growing sophistication of transnational crime; and countering illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF). In particular, it was noted that IUUF destroys marine habitats and depletes fish stocks, threatens food security, and threatens maritime security.
Other topics discussed were environmental conservation including on marine plastic pollution, climate action, and marine scientific research.
Participants included representatives from the defense, security, fisheries, environment, and law enforcement agencies of both sides.
The Philippines and the United States look forward to holding the Maritime Dialogue annually.