Press Release
July 13, 2011


Senator Edgardo J. Angara is proposing the creation of an institution that will train diplomatic, legal, economic and maritime experts who can competently uphold the country's interests in international dialogues, including over territorial disputes.

The veteran lawmaker is currently in talks with the University of the Philippines Law Center regarding the formation of an Institute of Maritime Affairs which will advance the country's ocean-related interests.

Angara, vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said that this institute will be instrumental in beefing up the country's capacity to protect its maritime and territorial interests, especially as the conflict over the Spratly Islands continues.

"The need for a primary and authoritative representative in international dialogues has been a pressing need for a very long time," said Angara. "This need is made all the more urgent by the persisting tension with China."

Back in March, the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest after Chinese military ships bullied a Philippine seismic exploration vessel in the Recto (Reed) Bank, 80 nautical miles from Palawan and clearly within the country's internationally recognized 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

"The government rightfully protested the incursions and unwarranted harassment. Renaming the West Philippine Sea is likewise a strong assertion of our territorial claims," said Angara. "But we cannot allow these disagreements escalate into a violent clash."

The Spratlys Islands dispute involves multilateral interests and hence should be resolved multilaterally, stressed Angara.

He added that countries involved should resolve together not only political interests, but also economic interests.

Angara said the Philippines could engage stakeholders on how to jointly maximize available resources for the collective benefit.

"There are national interests that must be pursued vigorously but there are also multilateral interests that may be sought cooperatively," he added. "We should strive to strike a balance between the two."

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