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ASEAN maritime cooperation reaps fruit amidst COVID-19

Update: December, 17/2020 - 11:21

  

Fishing ships anchor at a port in central Ninh Thuận Province. — VNA/VNS Photo 

HÀ NỘI — Maritime cooperation within ASEAN and ASEAN-led mechanisms have reaped significant outcomes across spheres despite COVID-19, heard the 10th ASEAN Maritime Forum (AMF) that was held both in online and in-person formats earlier this week.

In his opening speech, Vũ Hồ, Director of the Foreign Ministry’s ASEAN Department, said since its inception in 2010, the forum has become an effective framework to promote dialogue, information sharing and coordination between relevant agencies, significantly contributing to regional maritime cooperation and security.

In 2020, ASEAN established a network on fighting illegal fishing, built a joint action plan on combating marine waste and studied the feasibility of the building of common fishery policies in ASEAN, delegates at the forum said.

They also highlighted the East Asia Summit (EAS) Leaders’ Statement on Partnership for Sustainability, saying maritime cooperation and security are a high priority in action plans for 2021-25 reached by ASEAN and its seven partners in the year.

The forum also touched upon emerging challenges, including activities and developments that have complicated the situation and increased tensions, thus harming rules-based maritime order, along with non-traditional challenges such as illegal fishing, maritime pollution and plastic waste.

The delegates acknowledged the results and recommendations raised at the seminar marking the 10th anniversary of the forum held by Việt Nam on December 12, including the proposal to build ASEAN’s comprehensive, cohesive, responsive and inclusive approach to maritime cooperation.

They shared the view on the necessity to enhance information exchange and coordination between agencies, and ease overlapping, as well as the significance of observing international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The participating countries also discussed measures to consolidate and improve the operational efficiency of the forum.

The 10th AMF formed part of activities regarding maritime cooperation chaired by Việt Nam in its capacity as ASEAN Chair 2020.

Expanded cooperation

Maritime cooperation is an essential part of the COVID-19 response and post-pandemic recovery, according to participants at the 8th Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF) held the same day.

The forum drew the participation of representatives from ASEAN member states, the bloc’s eight partner countries, foreign embassies in Hà Nội, and experts and scholars on maritime issues.

Delegates stressed the importance of the maritime space in security, stability, development, and prosperity in each nation, and the need to intensify maritime cooperation.

Priority should be given to ensuring navigation security, safety, and freedom, preventing incidents, building trust and a favourable environment to resolve disputes, boosting maritime economic development and environmental protection, handling plastic waste, and fighting illegal fishing.

They also highlighted the necessity of promoting links between strategies and initiatives on maritime cooperation and ensuring harmony with the region’s strategies and plans, given that each country builds and implements its own.

The partner countries expressed their support for the targets and orientations contained in the ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP), which defines maritime cooperation and security as a key pillar.

Participants also exchanged views on emerging challenges, including illegal and excessive fishing, maritime environmental pollution and degradation, plastic waste, crime at sea, climate change, and food security.

They emphasised the important role of international law and the Convention on the Law of the Sea, adding that countries, big or small, are all equal and have a responsibility to abide by international law.

EAMF-8 is the last of a series of activities on maritime cooperation to be chaired by Việt Nam in 2020. As ASEAN Chair in 2021, Brunei will chair the 11th ASEAN Maritime Forum and 9th EAMF next year. — VNS

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