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Advancing Ocean Diplomacy
Jay L. Batongbacal
 
     
 

There is an emerging link between the environment, development, and the peaceful uses of the sea in the global arena which can be the basis of a foreign policy. The Law of the Sea and subsequent developments like Agenda 21 and other international conventions present the internationally acceptable policy framework for the adjustment of relations between states with respect to the management and use of the oceans. Prof. Peter Payoyo, in his international award-winning work on "Cries of the Sea" notes that this has an impact on Philippine foreign policy in the sense that we have effectively recast the Philippine national interest in marine affairs for the international community.

Maritime activities are increasingly subject to a steadily-developing maritime legal regime. As an archipelago, the Philippines has major maritime concerns that need to be protected in a foreign policy. We have a lot of interests in maintaining the marine areas connecting the islands. A significant member of our population are engaged in seafaring, with thousands deployed throughout the world. Our local shipping industry remains undeveloped. The country’s geographic location astride major shipping routes between the Pacific and Asia is a potential boon for a carefully-crafted maritime trade policy.

The University of the Philippines’ task in this area is to help modernize Philippine foreign policy in the field of ocean diplomacy, a rapidly evolving subject considering the worldwide concern about the natural environment. This can be done by formulating an alternative foreign policy model which emphasizes Philippine maritime interests; promoting specific foreign policy principles and programs; and developing human and legal resources which are needed to pursue the proposed policies.

A comprehensive foreign policy white paper should be formulated, detailing how to protect and advance the identified maritime interests of the country. Priority areas should be determined in order to create a coherent diplomatic agenda on which a consistent foreign policy advocacy can be based. For too long, Philippine foreign policy responds only to incidents and crises when they occur.

The alternative foreign policy model must be supported by discernible principles and specific program thrusts. These include the promotion of (1) preventive diplomacy as a means to anticipate and resolve disputes and conflicts before they occur; (2) regional cooperation in mutually acceptable areas, such as marine scientific research, exchange of marine science and technology resources, ocean resources assessment, and mutual security arrangements; and (3) the "common heritage of mankind" idea for the sustainable development of ocean resources, particularly in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

On human resources, there are two areas which have practical value in the near future. These are (1) the generation of special expertise in the conduct of diplomacy, particularly negotiation skills and accessing technical data; and (2) the development of human institutional expertise to prosecute or defend Philippine national interests before international tribunals and other dispute settlement mechanisms.

UP’s legal resources in terms of analytical works should be augmented in order to support innovation and reforms in foreign policy. Among the immediate needs is for UP to conduct training programs designed for the diplomatic corps, particularly on international negotiation skills and areas such as law of the sea and international environmental law. A reliable and updated information bank should also be maintained. Other programs are those that will monitor Philippine activities and participation in the international maritime field; generate information on the various maritime Philippine sectors and their role in the national economy; conduct studies on the impacts of international trade; and serve as a forum for UP’s participation in diplomatic activities.