Maintain engagement to enhance sea ties

Cooperation and a strong relationship must exist between the Philippines and China in terms of pushing sustainable maritime management for the fishery sector.

In a media forum on Saturday afternoon, experts said both countries must consider developing mechanisms for the marine environment, fishery management and maritime security.

Dr. Ming Junchao, a research fellow of the Chinese Academy of Fishery and Sciences, said there is a need for both countries to agree on cooperation mechanisms “that will promote” the fishery sector.

While the prevailing impact of the pandemic was one of the reasons for the slow progress of maritime talks between China and the Philippines, Jungchao believed that resistance to the pursuit of bilateral cooperation, specific on marine and maritime industry should speed up the negotiation process.

Meanwhile, Dr. Yan Yan, director of the Research Center of Ocean Law and Policy in the National Institute for South China Sea, has expressed high hopes that China and the Philippines will continue strengthening and enhancing their Bilateral Consultation Mechanism.

The Philippines-China BCM was created in 2016 following the state visit of former President Rodrigo Duterte to China, and serves as a venue for both countries to keep regular dialogues in pursuit of stable development of their bilateral relations on specific concerns.

Yan noted that by improving the BCM, it is possible to set up systematic mechanisms for the marine environment, fishery management, and maritime security between both countries.

“I personally think that the Chinese Foreign Ministry has wanted to continue this mechanism at the government-level (taking) an umbrella mechanism that can hold the working meetings and committees that can pave the way for future bilateral maritime cooperation,” Yan said.

The two countries have previously discussed ways to expand exchanges on maritime search and rescue and joint development.

“I think that maybe the new president, may need some time to consider how to arrange the future BCMs but I personally have confidence in the new government to continue the mechanism,” she added.

Better ways to keep on track

Professor Bobby Tuazon, a public policy expert at the Center for People Empowerment in Governance, said greater cooperation between the Philippines and China on the fishery sector and marine environment requires strengthening people-to-people exchanges rather than relying on state-to-state relations.

“Because these are permanent and they last longer,” Tuazon said referring to the case of the government’s succession “from one president to the next and one policy to another.”

“We can unite and agree on how to consolidate our cooperation to push forward policy proposals and press the government to act,” he added.

Tuazon, expressing disappointment at the government’s slow actions, said the vibrant number of civil society organizations in the Philippines can help the government to do its job.

He said more than 50,000 non-government organizations nationwide can rescue the government’s failed responsibilities.

“It is quite frustrating but you know actions start in some realities. It is when we realize the truth of internal political conditions in the Philippines that we will be able to plan something and do something,” he added.

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