The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), a Swiss-based private diplomacy organization, co-organized the Fourth Experts’ Meeting on Maritime Confidence-Building in the Spratlys Area on 25-27 May 2016 at the Marriott Hotel, Cebu City. The meeting gathered scholars and government officials acting in private capacities from China, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam to discuss practical measures in preventing incidents and reducing tensions in the Spratlys area.
The meeting explored the establishment of a common set of rules and operating procedures to minimize incidents and raise predictability among maritime law enforcement agencies (MLEAs), including coast guards. The potential utility as well as limitations of applying and replicating the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea adopted by navies for the MLEAs was thoroughly discussed.
The meeting also noted how incidents in the Spratlys have also involved fishermen and fishing vessels operating in the area. The experts discussed possible cooperative management of fishing activities, with emphasis on ensuring the safety and humanitarian treatment of fishermen.
The experts recommended that in the absence of a common set of standard operating procedures, common principles may be identified on how MLEAs are to behave in the Spratlys area. The experts also acknowledged the importance of sustained interactions among different stakeholders through the conduct of trainings and workshops.