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Maritime and economic security are intimately linked

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China's recent imposition of a unilateral four-month fishing ban in the South China Sea, encompassing the West Philippine Sea (WPS), has provoked condemnation from the Philippines. 

This ban, effective from May 1 to September 16, is seen as another aggressive act by China, disregarding the Philippines’ sovereignty and international law. Despite the Philippines' 2016 victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, China continues to defy this ruling, escalating tensions and threatening regional stability.

Impact on Philippine Sovereignty and Economic Order

China's actions in the WPS are not only a maritime issue but also a severe threat to the Philippines' economic interests. The WPS, rich in marine biodiversity, is crucial for the livelihood of many Filipinos and is believed to hold significant reserves of oil and natural gas, essential for the country’s energy security and economic growth. Moreover, the WPS is a vital maritime route for international trade and commerce. By imposing fishing bans and other restrictions, China is undermining the Philippines' ability to fully utilize these resources, as affirmed by international law and the arbitral ruling.

The Blue Economy and Sustainable Development

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. highlighted the importance of the "blue economy" during his State of the Nation Address, emphasizing the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth and improved livelihoods while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem. The World Bank defines the blue economy as the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem. The House of Representatives has approved the Blue Economy Act, and it is now under the Senate’s second reading.

China’s actions pose a significant threat to this vision. The West Philippine Sea is a critical component of the Philippines' blue economy strategy. By compromising the region’s stability, China is directly challenging the country’s efforts to achieve sustainable development and economic security.

Strategic Response and International Collaboration

Addressing these threats requires continued engagement and collaboration with like-minded states. Enhanced cooperation with countries such as Australia, which shares robust security and economic ties with the Philippines, is crucial. During President Marcos Jr.'s visit to Australia in March, both nations reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Foreign policy scholar Dr. Renato de Castro suggests leveraging alliances and partnerships to build capabilities for a comprehensive archipelagic defense strategy. In his publication, “Jumpstarting Archipelagic Defense and Trilateral Security Partnership,” Dr. de Castro outlines the strategic benefits of such collaborations.

Forum on Maritime and Economic Security

To further explore these issues, Stratbase ADR Institute, in partnership with the Embassy of Australia in the Philippines, is organizing a forum titled “Forging Bonds: Exploring the Nexus Between Maritime Security and Economic Security.” This event will bring together stakeholders from the government, diplomatic community, academe, and think tanks to discuss collaborative ways to ensure maritime security and promote the development of a sustainable blue economy in the WPS.

Speakers at the forum include Prof. Ranjit Rye, President of OCTA Research, who will explore public opinion on the West Philippine Sea dispute and China; Dr. Ma. Carmen Ablan Lagman, Full Professor at De La Salle University – Manila, who will discuss the development of a blue economy; and RADM Rommel Jude Ong (Ret), Professor of Praxis at Ateneo School of Government, who will examine the integration of alliance building and economic resilience for national security.

Upholding Multilateralism and the Rules-Based International Order

During the recent Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, President Marcos Jr. emphasized the importance of multilateralism as the single viable platform for collective action against global challenges. He asserted that nations sharing the same values and principles must collaborate to preserve the rules-based international order. This unity sends a strong message to China that its actions are illegal, dishonorable, and morally reprehensible.


China's unilateral fishing ban in the South China Sea exemplifies its disregard for international law and the sovereignty of the Philippines. This act threatens not only the maritime and economic security of the Philippines but also the broader stability of the Indo-Pacific region. Through continued collaboration with like-minded nations and a firm commitment to multilateralism, the Philippines can counter these threats and promote a sustainable blue economy, ensuring the well-being and prosperity of its people.

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Source: Business World