Brian Lewis, Associate Editor

MAKATI CITY – Key government leaders, ambassadors, and experts are coming together in the biggest West Philippine Sea Conference of 2024 to celebrate the 8th anniversary of the Arbitral ruling that dismissed China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea.

Organized by the Stratbase ADR Institute, in partnership with the Australian Embassy in the Philippines and the US Embassy in the Philippines, the event will be held on July 12 in Makati City.

Expected to attend the conference are the ambassadors of United States, Australia, Canada, France, and Japan to the Philippines. The National Security Council, top military officials from the Philippine Navy, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Coast Guard, and the Presidential Office for Maritime Concerns are also expected to speak during the event. 

Stratbase Institute President Professor Dindo Manhit said, in light of the continuous aggressive and coercive actions of China in the West Philippine Sea, it is very timely to discuss and exchange views on the strategic value of the arbitral tribunal ruling, especially in maintaining a rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific.   

“The Arbitral Award accorded to the Philippines by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 underscored the importance of the rules-based international order. It brought to the forefront of global discussions the efforts of the Philippines to defend its national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and economic rights in the West Philippine Sea,” Manhit explained.

Manhit emphasized that it is of utmost importance that Filipinos come together and strengthen the country’s sovereignty in the area.

“Confronted with asymmetric security challenges, the Philippines remains steadfast in its stance, employing a whole-of-society approach to asserting its rights in the West Philippine Sea. The current administration’s firm pronouncements are complemented by the military’s efforts to boost external defense capabilities through the Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept,” Manhit said.

“Moreover, civil society plays an active role through civilian missions in the West Philippine Sea and an assertive transparency strategy, publicizing incidents that undermine the rules-based international order,” he added.

The Stratbase President also noted the significance of having like-minded partners stand beside the Philippines in upholding the rules-based international order in the West Philippine Sea.

“The firm stance and concrete steps taken by the Philippines to safeguard its rights has inspired renewed confidence in the international community. Like-minded partners such as the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, France, and the European Union among others continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as part of collective efforts to ensure security, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific,” Manhit said.

“The Arbitral Award serves as a reminder of the Philippines’ victory in upholding its sovereign rights and the enduring strength of the rules-based international order. Underscoring the ongoing challenges and the need for sustained vigilance and collective action, renewing the shared commitment to maritime security among all participants forges stronger partnerships in exploring innovative strategies to safeguard common interests in the Indo-Pacific,” he pointed out.