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Philippines eyes stronger maritime ties with India

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MANILA / NEW DELHI : The Philippines is seeking stronger maritime security cooperation with India to ensure the safety of seafarers from both nations as the world’s oceans are becoming more dangerous for commercial shipping, Philippines President Marcos said.

During a courtesy call of Indian Minister of External Affairs Shri S Jaishankar at Malacañang on Tuesday, Marcos stressed the importance of working together on maritime security amid concerns in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

‘That kind of partnership, we have just rationalized our – the system, the local system for the support of our local seafarers because before, it has been a little bit haphazard, but now I think we have – we made some sense of it and I think we will be going to be a little bit to a great advantage,’ Marcos told Jaishankar.

‘Which means we’re ready to join up and if there are opportunities for us to work together. It really is at a crisis point of shipping. And maybe we can find something that we can do together to ease the situation at least a little bit until it becomes – the conflict becomes less heated,’ he said.

While India and the Philippines are non-traditional partners in terms of maritime issues, Marcos said ‘it serves a purpose for us to start thinking about that, because the world is like that already, very closely connected.’

Marcos highlighted the important contribution of Filipino seafarers manning the world’s merchant ships, whether tankers, cruise ships or other vessels.

Agreeing with Marcos, the Indian official said the two countries should start looking for where they can do more to work together.

Indian Minister of External Affairs Shri S Jaishankar with Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo

In a separate meeting with Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo on Tuesday, Shri Jaishankar emphasized India’s readiness to build on its existing maritime partnerships with the Philippines.

Manalo said Manila hopes to collaborate with New Delhi in ensuring the safety of Indian and Filipino seafarers, especially those in merchant vessels plying the Red Sea.

Meanwhile, Marcos also expressed his appreciation to the Indian Navy for rescuing and providing assistance to the Filipino crew of MV True Confidence that was attacked by Houthi rebels in the Gulf of Aden early this month.

Marcos said the 13 Filipino seamen have safely returned to the Philippines, which he partly attributed to the Indian Navy‘s swift response to their distress call.

Two Filipinos died in the recent attack by Houthi rebels on MV True Confidence.

Houthis have warned of continuing their attacks until Israel stops its combat operations in the Gaza Strip.

Last November, 17 Filipino seafarers were held hostage in the Red Sea as Houthi believed their ship was being operated by an Israeli company.

Marcos has called for an end to attacks on ships and respect for freedom of navigation.

Almost a quarter of the world’s seafarers are Filipinos, according to recent data.


President Marcos also thanked India for its support in upholding the Philippines’ sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea during a meeting with Shri Jaishankar, who described his country’s stance on the dispute as ‘very resolute.’

During the meeting, Marcos told Shri Jaishankar that their countries share common interests, particularly in maintaining peace and order in the Indo-Pacific region.

He described India as one of the like-minded countries with the Philippines in terms of upholding the international rules-based order.

‘We have many shared interests… that is to maintain the peace in our areas and so this is a concern now, not only of India or of the Philippines alone, but the entire world,’ the President said.

‘So, whatever it is that we can do to make the situation better, in partnership with India, (will) certainly be an important development for us,’ he added.

A Palace statement quoted Shri Jaishankar as telling Marcos that it is important for the Philippines, India and other countries ‘to coordinate and uphold international rules-based laws to maintain peace and order in the Indo-Pacific region.’

Shri Jaishankar stood firm that India is ‘very resolute’ in their position on the South China Sea and honored the validity of the 2016 ruling of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which invalidated China’s claim on the Philippine waters,’ the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said in a statement.

The landmark ruling, which was issued by a Hague-based arbitral court, also affirmed the Philippines’ sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Under the UNCLOS, states have sovereign rights to explore, exploit, conserve and manage natural resources within their EEZ.

Invite to India

Shri Jaishankar relayed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s invitation to President Marcos to visit India as Manila and New Delhi prepare to celebrate the 75th anniversary of their diplomatic ties.

‘The Indian official said Prime Minister Modi looks forward to welcoming President Marcos in India for a state visit,’ the PCO said in a statement yesterday.

The statement quoted Shri Jaishankar as saying that it would be ‘nice’ if Marcos’ visit coincided with the 75th anniversary celebration of the two countries’ diplomatic relations.

Marcos ‘welcomed’ the invitation, according to the PCO.

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