Press Release
November 19, 2011


Senator Edgardo J. Angara called on the government to prioritize the creation of a maritime institute as Pres. Benigno Aquino III talks with other regional leaders during the 19th ASEAN Summit in Bali, Indonesia.

"We need a maritime office to develop and the resources found in our waters and protect our maritime territory," he urged.

"We are a maritime nation. The seas and oceans surrounding the Philippine archipelago are integral to our territory, and they are an important source of our food and energy," said Angara.

According to Angara, vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, this proposed institute specializing in international maritime law would boost the country's claim bid in the Spratly group of islands in the West Philippine Sea.

"Our claim over the Spratly islands got a very lukewarm reception, with only Vietnam as our lone partner. When the Spratly issue first erupted, Vietnam contacted the best international lawyers in Washington and Geneva to help them. So Vietnam was assisted by lawyers trained in international maritime law during the negotiations. Do we have the same?" asked Angara.

The veteran legislator further compared our country's shaky stand on the Spratly issue with another ASEAN country which had a hand in the original negotiations.

"In Indonesia, for example, their original advisors during the first round of negotiations are still with the government. Therefore, they have the advantage of institutional memory," explained Angara.

Angara, head of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture, suggested that the proposed maritime institute be linked with one of the premier law schools in the nation.

"At present we have only two experts in international maritime law in the Philippines. However, we have very promising Filipino law graduates who studied in Yale, the Hague, John Hopkins. We have all the talent, but we are sadly lacking in organizational mobility. This is why I proposed the establishment of an Institute of Maritime Affairs in the UP College of Law," he said.

Senator Franklin Drilon, who was defending the proposed budget of the DFA, assured Angara that the department recognizes the need to create a group to cultivate the technical needs and expertise in the Philippines' booming maritime industry.

"There are extremely high stakes here. China knows for a fact that the resources in the Spratlys group of islands are enough to sustain 25 years of their development. We already made the mistake of joining a joint exploration with China, where they have complete control over all the information. They can choose to reveal only the data they want," stressed Angara.

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