The Philippines, through the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), is hosting a two-day meeting of officials from Coast Guards and maritime law enforcement agencies of the ten (10) ASEAN Member States on 19-20 August 2015 in Manila.

One year ago, on 27 August 2014, the 5th ASEAN Maritime Forum in Danang, Vietnam discussed the proposal for the establishment of an ASEAN Coast Guard Forum (ACGF) as a platform for cooperation and coordination among the ASEAN Coast Guards and maritime law enforcement agencies. The meeting suggested the holding of an Experts’ Meeting to discuss the proposal and to consider its terms of reference. This was duly noted by ASEAN Ministers in their Joint Communique of the 48th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on 04 August 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The meeting in Manila will consider the possible role of this proposed ASEAN Coast Guard Forum in promoting common interests and in ensuring a safe, secure, clean and peaceful maritime environment for ASEAN Community.

In his keynote address, DFA Assistant Secretary Luis T Cruz highlighted the role of Coast Guard and maritime law enforcement agencies in fulfilling ASEAN’s collective responsibility in the stewardship of Southeast Asia’s maritime domain and its resources and in supporting a rules-based regional security infrastructure.

He noted that the Southeast Asian seas have always been, and will continue to be, the connecting and unifying element of ASEAN which is composed of two major regions, the mainland Southeast Asia, comprising of Cambodia, Laos, Peninsular Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam and maritime Southeast Asia, comprising of Brunei, East Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore.

ASEAN’s maritime domain stretches from the western flanks of the Australian continent and the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean, covering 20,000 islands including the world’s two biggest archipelagos, Indonesia and the Philippines and spreading over a good number of narrow passages, straits and seas. ASEAN’s entire sea area is three times as large as its land area of 4.4 million square kilometers. ASEAN’s coastline has a cumulative length of 173,000 kilometers. ASEAN also hosts world’s most important hotspots for biodiversity, in land and on water and also some of the world’s busiest waterways for shipping and navigation.

Assistant Secretary Cruz emphasized that “for all its profound importance in the daily lives and connectivity of the 625 million ASEAN citizens, and the future of our Economic Community, our endeavor of ensuring order, safety and security in our seas necessarily assumes a place of priority in the expanding cooperation in ASEAN.”