Remarks by Vice President Harris aboard the Philippine Coast Guard vessel Teresa Magbanua

Puerto Princesa, Philippines

Vice President: Good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon. Thank you, Mr. Under-Secretary, for the warm welcome. It’s really great to be here with all of you – local elected officials, distinguished guests, and community leaders. I am honored to be with the Philippine Coast Guard personnel.

The United States is proud of our longstanding relationship with the people of the Philippines. I’m here in Palawan to stress the importance of our partnership in creating economic opportunity, protecting coastal ecosystems, maintaining peace and stability, and upholding international norms and standards here in the South China Sea and around the world.

Upholding international norms and standards means supporting the lives and livelihoods of people across the region.

Earlier today, I heard from local officials in Tagboros about generations of families fishing these waters.

Palawan’s fisheries not only provide food for the residents but are the economic lifeblood of this island.

I’ve met fishermen who go out every day and catch mackerel and tuna sustainably. I spoke with a young woman–her name is Jacqueline–who runs a fish-drying business, a business that has become so successful that she has taught other women how to dry rabbit fish so that they, too, can participate in a vibrant industry and draw on extra income.

Community leaders are also working to help residents adjust to warm waters and harsh weather.

The stories I’ve heard show that this community has come together to manage natural resources sustainably.

Despite many challenges, I have seen the strength and resilience of the Palawan community.

However, the vitality of such communities is at risk. Communities like this have seen the consequences, and people here know the effects, when foreign ships enter Philippine waters and illegally deplete their fishing stocks; when they harass and intimidate local fishermen; When they pollute the ocean and destroy the marine ecosystem.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing – also called IUU – is very common across the world’s oceans. It poses a direct threat to coastal ecosystems and economies

To help address these maritime issues, the United States is proud to have a strong partnership with the Philippines, which includes training recently conducted on this particular ship with the Philippine Coast Guard and US service members.

Today, I am pleased to announce additional areas of cooperation.

The United States will provide new funding to Philippine maritime law enforcement agencies to increase their capacity to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, strengthen surveillance systems, and upgrade equipment.

This will all build on the new initiatives I launched in May at the special summit between the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Washington, D.C., to provide more training, assets and personnel to build maritime law enforcement capacity across Southeast Asia.

In addition, we have increased efforts to provide countries in the region with a broader and more accurate picture of their territorial waters.

In May, in Tokyo, along with the leaders of Australia, Japan and India, President Joe Biden launched the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Awareness. This initiative uses space platforms to provide a common operational picture of waterways in the Indo-Pacific and to promote transparency so our allies and partners can better protect vulnerable fisheries, respond to humanitarian disasters, and detect and combat illegal activities.

I am happy to report that the Philippines is already receiving this flow of data along with other partners here in Southeast Asia. We plan to increase this work in the coming months to include launching new satellites into orbit in December to expand this program.

Through USAID, we are also launching a new partnership with local communities here in Palawan to promote sustainable fishing, enhance food security, and preserve marine ecosystems.

So this is the way I see it: To protect the economic vitality of these communities, to protect the ecosystems they depend on, and to protect lives and livelihoods, we must uphold international rules and standards. This is why our work here is so important.

We must defend principles such as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, lawful and unhindered trade, peaceful resolution of disputes, and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea and throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

For the Philippine Coast Guard, you are on the front lines of defending the international rules-based order.

Every day, as you patrol these waters, you adhere to the rules and standards that are vital to the prosperity of the Filipino people and people around the world.

The United States and the broader international community have a deep interest in the future of this region. America’s prosperity depends on the billions of dollars that flow through these waters every day. We are proud to work with you on your mission.

As an ally, the United States stands by the Philippines in the face of intimidation and coercion in the South China Sea.

As the United States has long made clear, we support the 2016 ruling by the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal, which issued a final, unanimous decision firmly rejecting China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea. The court’s decision is legally binding and must be respected.

We will continue to rally our allies and partners against illegal and irresponsible behaviour.

When the rules-based international order is threatened somewhere, it is threatened everywhere.

So the rules and norms that I discussed today, matter to the United States, the Philippines, and communities around the world.

So I say to all of you here today: The alliance of the United States and the Philippines is strong. We are committed to you. We are committed to your success and to all lives and livelihoods that depend on your work.

Thank you. (clap.)


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