Philippines, Germany eye cyber, maritime defense cooperation

Helen Flores, Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star
Philippines, Germany eye cyber, maritime defense cooperation
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz answered questions from the members of the media during the joint press conference at the Chancellery as part of President Marcos' working visit to Germany on March 12, 2024.
PPA Pool Photos by Yummie Dingding

BERLIN – The Philippines and Germany are eyeing to expand their defense cooperation to include cyber and maritime domains, President Marcos said, in light of China’s continued dangerous maneuvers and harassment of Filipino supply vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

At a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz following their meeting at the Chancellery on Tuesday, Marcos said he discussed with his counterpart the importance of advancing peace and development in the Philippines.

“I am heartened by Germany’s increased interest in enhancing maritime cooperation between our two countries, and I welcome more initiatives to enrich this relationship,” the President said.

He said Germany has been providing training for personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines since 1974, making it the second oldest formal defense partner of the Philippines.

“And I expressed the Philippine government’s openness to discussions on cooperation that go beyond training and into new areas such as cyber and maritime domains,” Marcos said.

The President said he expressed the country’s appreciation for Germany’s continuous support for capacity-building of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

Germany committed to provide the PCG with additional drones to be used for operations in the WPS during German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s visit to the Philippines in January.

The two countries also reaffirmed their commitment to a rules-based order and international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Scholz, for his part, stressed the need for parties to respect and adhere to international law that governs international navigation.

“Respect for international law is of greatest importance to us and this is equally true for international law that governs international navigation,” he said.

“We have the UNCLOS, we have the arbitral tribunal. I believe it to be very important to the legislation in place,” Scholz said, referring to the Philippines’ 2016 legal victory over China in the West Philippine Sea.

“We support the Philippines in ensuring that rights are protected,” the German official said.

Marcos said the two countries signed the “Joint Declaration of Intent on Strengthening Cooperation in the Maritime Sector” before his arrival here on Monday night for a working visit.

Assistant Secretary Maria Elena Algabre of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)-Office of European Affairs earlier said the JDI seeks to facilitate maritime trade and mobility of Philippine and German-owned commercial vessels. She said the deal is expected to significantly benefit Filipino seafarers.

Maritime cooperation

President Marcos and Chancellor Scholz also underscored the importance of maintaining peace and adhering to a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region even as they welcomed the signing of maritime cooperation between the two countries during their meeting on Tuesday.

“On regional and international matters, I thanked Chancellor Scholz for Germany’s staunch support for international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS. Our shared commitment to international law strengthens our partnership and creates a favorable atmosphere for working together on global issues,” Marcos said.

During his meeting with the German leader, Marcos said he reiterated the Philippine government’s commitment to address maritime disputes through dialogue and consultation.

“Yet the Philippines, like any sovereign state, will continue to firmly defend its sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction, in accordance with international law,” he stressed.

Blinken, Japan FM arriving

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa will visit Manila next week for a trilateral meeting to discuss ways to deepen and enhance defense and economic ties amid China’s series of provocative actions in the South China Sea.

An official of the DFA, who asked not to be named, said the Philippines is hosting the meeting. The official said Blinken will arrive in Manila on March 18.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, Blinken and Kamikawa will meet on March 20 that is also in preparation for the leaders’ summit with US President Joe Biden, President Marcos and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on April 11 in Washington.

US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said on Tuesday that Blinken will visit Manila, noting that it is a message that the US is committed to continue showing up in the Philippines. - Michael Punongbayan, Evelyn Macairan

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