File Photo-ctto.

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Navy on Wednesday (Oct. 27) wrapped up a biennial international forum on maritime security, with a call for multilateral cooperation on regional security.

Navy chief Vice Adm. Adeluis Bordado, in his closing remarks, raised four key points of the two-day event: Convergence of interests, partnerships, commitment to a rules-based order and steadfastness in approaches and strategies.

The Navy hosted the 17th Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) for the first time since the forum was launched in 1988. It was held on Oct. 26 to 27 online due to the pandemic.

The WPNS aims to increase cooperation and ability to operate together and also build trust and confidence between navies.

Twenty members of the WPNS and eight observers, represented by their chiefs of navies or designated representatives, joined the event, with a theme: “Effective Ocean Governance for Regional Partnership and Stability.”

“We, the navies, have a significant role to play in addressing the effects of this evolving security landscape and ensuring that regional security is maintained in the Western Pacific and our global commons,” Bordado said.

Oceans have become crucial in shaping current world affairs and geopolitics.

Some countries in the Western Pacific, home to some of the world’s most vital sea lanes for global trade, are involved in territorial disputes which cause tension in the region.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in a pre-recorded keynote speech at the forum, acknowledged the geopolitical and economic importance of the Western Pacific.

“The vastness and importance of the maritime domain expose it to traditional and non-traditional threats. Most of these concerns are transnational in nature. They are beyond the capacity of any one nation to solve. A multilateral approach is therefore needed,” he said.

Lorenzana said he recognized that several territorial disputes may ignite open hostilities, transnational crimes, terrorism, exploitation of maritime resources and disruption of marine biodiversity, climate change, which are already exacerbated by the pandemic.

The Philippine Navy was supposed to host the WPNS in 2020 but it was postponed due to the pandemic. The forum would have coincided with an international fleet review in the country, an event which would have brought together ships from at least 15 naval powers, including the United States and its rivals China and Russia, but it was also cancelled.

Japan will be hosting the WPNS for 2022. – TSB