INDONESIA as a state and Indonesians as a people have been the Philippines’ and the Filipinos’ best friends among the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Through all the ups and downs in Indonesian and Philippine development in the decades after the Second World War, our two republics, our presidents and leading political, diplomatic, business and educational leaders have been the closest and the most cooperative with each other in international forums and enterprises.
In the East Asia Summit held two weeks ago in Myanmar, Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo gave a speech in which he enunciated his presidency’s new maritime doctrine. He said it has these five main pillars:
1. Rebuild Indonesia’s maritime culture. As a country consisting of 17,000 islands, Indonesia should be aware of and see the oceans as part of the nation’s identity, its prosperity and its future are determined by how we manage the oceans.
2. Maintain and manage marine resources, with a focus on building marine food sovereignty through the development of the fishing industry.
3. Provide priority to the development of maritime infrastructure and connectivity by constructing sea highways along the shore of Java, establish deep seaports and logistical networks as well as developing the shipping industry and maritime tourism.
4. Through maritime diplomacy, Indonesia invites other nations to cooperate in the marine field and eliminate the source of conflicts at sea, such as illegal fishing, violations of sovereignty, territorial disputes, piracy and marine pollution.
5. Indonesia has an obligation to develop its maritime defense forces. This is necessary not only to maintain maritime sovereignty and wealth, but also as a form of our responsibility to maintain the safety of shipping and maritime security.
He said Indonesia was going to actively participate in determining the future of the Pacific and Indian Ocean region or the PACINDO.
He said: “We want the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean to remain peaceful and safe for world trade, not used as a platform for the seizure of natural resources, territorial disputes or maritime supremacy.”
“We encourage Asean members in the summit to support and be actively involved in running the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity, especially connectivity and maritime infrastructure,” he added.
The new Indonesian president, a well-respected former governor of the Jakarta region who is reputed to have little foreign policy experience, called for closer cooperation in maintaining maritime security. With regard to the South China Sea, President “Jokowi” urged all parties to exercise restraint and seek solutions to their conflicting claims based on international law.
“I welcome the commitment to implement the DOC [Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea]. I also support the completion of the COC [Code of Conduct in the South China Sea] as soon as possible through consultation,” he said.
Just like the Philippines, Indonesia–which is also an archipelago republic–has to make vast improvements in its ports and its domestic and international maritime capabilities.
While at first look, it would seem that our two countries are competing in meeting this common developmental need and are rivals also in attracting foreign investors, the truth is we have great opportunities to work together in fulfilling our similar aspirations.
We Filipinos should welcome—and support—President Joko Widodo’s new maritime doctrine.