THE PHILIPPINES:A MARITIME NATION
The archipelagic and maritime identity of the Philippines is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.
In Philippine national elections held on May 9, 2022, President-elect Ferdinand R Marcos, Jr received a landslide victory with almost 60 per cent of the votes. He will succeed President Rodrigo Roa Duterte as the head of state and government of a representative democracy with a population of more than 108 million people. President-elect Marcos will assume office after his inauguration on June 30, 2022.
As one of the original signatories of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982, the Philippines strongly adheres to an international law-based regime in maritime governance and is committed to the peaceful of the world’s seas and oceans. Of particular importance to the Philippines are Parts V and VI of the UNCLOS concerning the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf. The Philippines is currently one of only 10 nations that has successfully submitted the relevant charts and coordinates of the outer limits of its continental shelf with the International Seabed Authority (ISA).
The history of Philippines underscores its maritime heritage. Archeological evidence reveals the Philippines’ close interaction with other Southeast Asian countries via nautical highways from over a millennium ago. Maritime trade routes, such as the traditional Palawan-Zamboanga-Labuan-Brunei Darussalam trade route is still used to the present day. On a much bigger scale, the Philippines was a vital cog in the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade which provided major impetus for the first wave of globalisation from 1565 to 1815.
The waters of the Philippines provide vast economic resources that make the country a major producer of fish, seafood, canned tuna, carrageenan and pearls.
Surrounded by prominent shipping routes and major water bodies, the Philippines is a well-connected nation that has a large volume of ocean-going trade passing through it annually. Its well-developed and vibrant system of ports regulate trade and transit through the country.
Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, is home to the largest port in the country, one of the largest passenger hubs, as well as one of the largest container ports in the world. The Manila International Container Terminal (MICT), one of the world’s busiest container terminals, ranks high globally in terms of TEU volume.
Tourism contributes to almost 13 per cent of the Philippines’ national GDP. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, cruise liner and ferry traffic in the Philippines generated nearly 10 million foreign passengers annually. The islands and beaches of the Philippines are major global tourism destinations and provide substantial revenues. Last year, Palawan, Boracay and Siargao were recognised by Condé Nast Traveler as three of the Top Islands of 2021. The World Travel Awards 2021 also awarded the Philippines as Asia’s Leading Dive Destination for a third consecutive time as well as Asia’s Leading Beach Destination for the fifth time.
Found in the middle of the Coral Triangle, the Philippines is at the center of global marine diversity. With 16,800 square kilometres of coral reef, the Philippine archipelago has more marine species per unit area than any other place in the planet.
This rich biodiversity has emphasised the importance of marine conservation in the country. Conservation efforts of the government include the implementation of the Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Management Program (CMEMP) and the passage of the Philippine Wildlife Act of 2001. For projects focusing on marine species such as sea turtles (pawikan) and whale sharks (butanding), the Philippines has successfully partnered with international organisations like the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
A number of other initiatives to protect its seas have been adopted by the Philippines. To address the threat of marine plastic waste, the Philippines mandated on January 31, 2022 for large companies to adopt and implement policies for the proper management of plastic packaging wastes. Strong fisheries legislation are also enforced to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.
AN OVERVIEW OF PHILIPPINES– BRUNEI DARUSSALAM RELATIONS
Full diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam were established on January 1, 1984. On February 23, 1984, President Ferdinand E Marcos undertook the first State Visit to Brunei Darussalam of a Philippine President upon the invitation of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam. All sitting Philippine presidents have since visited Brunei. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte made his first state visit as President of the Philippines to Brunei Darussalam in September 2016. In October 2017, President Duterte attended the Golden Jubilee celebration of His Majesty’s accession to the throne in Bandar Seri Begawan.
His Majesty has visited the Philippines eight times, three of which are state visits.
The latest high-level visits of Philippine officials to Brunei Darussalam were made in May 2022 by Secretary of National Defense Delfin N Lorenzana and Secretary of Finance Carlos G Dominguez III.
Her Excellency Marian Jocelyn R Tirol-Ignacio is the current ambassador of the Philippines to Brunei Darussalam. Prior to her appointment as ambassador, she served as the Deputy Director-General of the ASEAN-Philippines National Secretariat and was Deputy Assistant Secretary on ASEAN Affairs. She has been in the Philippine foreign service for more than 25 years and was assigned to the Philippine embassies in Stockholm and Tokyo.
The Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to the Philippines is Her Excellency Hajah Johariah binti Haji Abdul Wahab.
PHILIPPINES-BRUNEI DEFENCE COOPERATION
Dynamic defence relations, framed by an agreement signed in 2003, are underscored by Brunei’s active involvement in the Mindanao Peace Process, particularly through its active participation in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the International Decommissioning Body (IDB) since October 2004.
The exchange of scholars is an aspect of defense relations that has been actively implemented. To date, 20 personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have successfully completed training courses at the Royal Brunei Armed Forces Defence Academy. RBAF personnel, on the other hand, have graduated from programmes conducted by the National Defense College of the Philippines.
In November 2021, S-70i Black Hawk flight simulator training for pilots of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) commenced in Brunei with strong support from RBAF and the Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAirF). This year, the training programme will be further expanded to include both PAF pilots and crew.
PHILIPPINES-BRUNEI ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Philippines-Brunei economic relations experienced unprecedented growth in recent years with total trade increasing by over 900 per cent from 2018 to 2021 and Philippine exports to Brunei rising by around 250 per cent for the same period. Processed food and beverages, processed fruits, pineapples, canned tuna and sauces and seasonings are included in the top exports of the Philippines to Brunei. The Philippines also has a significant presence in Brunei Darussalam with three major Filipino companies – Jollibee, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and LBC – operating in the Sultanate.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on halal industry and halal export development and promotion was signed between the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) of the Philippines and the Energy and Industry Department at the Prime Minister’s Office of Brunei Darussalam on April 27, 2017. The MoU is recognised by the Philippines as a vital agreement with Brunei since it opens up new areas for joint ventures and investments in the halal sector through the harmonisation of standards and regulations.
In July 2021, the Philippines and Brunei signed an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion was signed. Both countries are currently making final preparations for the establishment of a private nursing school in Bandar Seri Begawan later in 2022.
In light of the imminent post-pandemic recovery in Southeast Asia and involvement of both countries in the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), several prospects for future investment cooperation may be pursued in manufacturing and services in the halal sector, infrastructure, information technology and business-process outsourcing services.
THE FILIPINO COMMUNITY IN BRUNEI
There are around 20,000 Filipinos in Brunei Darussalam, mostly composed of overseas workers. In the Sultanate, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are employed in various industries and dispersed across all skill categories.
Strong coordination is exercised among several government agencies, including the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Foreign Affairs for the protection of the rights and the promotion of the welfare of overseas Filipinos.
The deployment of Filipino workers abroad is governed by the rules and regulations of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). The POEA is mandated to regulate private recruitment agencies in the Philippines, ensure that job opportunities for Filipinos overseas are legitimate, and to protect Filipino workers from illegal recruiters. As a result, the Philippines has one of the most developed overseas employment programmes in the world, and has received recognition for being a model in migration management, with protection extended to its nationals abroad across all the stages of the migration cycle.
The Philippine Embassy, through the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Brunei, coordinates closely with the Labour Department and other government agencies to implement compliance with Brunei’s Employment Order of 2009, particularly on the employment of foreign workers.
MESSAGE TO OVERSEAS FILIPINO COMMUNITIES
BY HON. BY TEODORO L. LOCSIN, JR., SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The past two years have seen us weathering the worst of the pandemic. There was the challenge of staying productive and hopeful, of running not to fall back, and sustaining relationships and preserving economies amidst health and travel restrictions that became commonplace. While the pandemic is still very much with us, we have managed to get out of the lashing arms of the storm but not into its eye for more to come. We have survived this far, and with continued caution and vigilance, we are getting out of this altogether to create a yet better future.
This Philippine Independence Day, Filipinos all over the world are called to “rise to the challenge of a new tomorrow”. If there is anything the pandemic taught us, it is to never underestimate humankind’s capacity to evolve and adapt. We have seen this in ourselves, our families, and communities. We, in the Department of Foreign Affairs, did not let a pandemic stop us from cultivating foreign partnerships, securing much-needed vaccines, upholding our sovereign rights, getting overseas Filipinos out of distress, and sharply increasing already considerable consular services. We rose to the occasion even as our compatriots abroad tenaciously served on the front lines while supporting their families in the Philippines. Overseas Filipinos will always be a source of pride and inspiration, they are the subjects of royal honors; the gratitude and admiration of foreign nations. The DFA is privileged for the opportunity it has gripped with both hands to be beside you in a perilous journey and never leave you behind.
Our endeavors, our struggles have borne fruit, just in time for our country to exercise democracy through free and fair elections with no restrictions other than those commonsense self-imposes. The sovereign will of the Filipino people through free, fair and unrestricted elections – an extension of our national independence – found its fullest expression and produced a clear and incontestable winner I was proud to announce this to the American President and the US Congress. This enables us to set the vision of the “new tomorrow” we will all be working for. Thank you, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for making it happen; the only President in our history to end his term with nationwide 70% approval and zero disapproval in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. This good man was vilified by so-called democracies that are racist, divided, unable to produce majorities and are at best confused about purpose.
As we now begin a new chapter in our nation’s history, I offer my very best wishes and profound appreciation to my colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs. It has been my honor to serve our country and people by your side. There remains so much to do and still so many challenges to overcome, but my faith in the DFA, like my faith in the Filipino, is strong and unwavering.
With this, I greet you for the last time as Secretary of Foreign Affairs:
Maligayang Araw ng Kasarinlan!
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas at ang Sambayanang Pilipino!