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Establishing Sea Power: Lessons from Indonesia by Atty. Trisha Isabelle Fernandez

Summary and Reflections on the book “Indonesian Sea Power” by Admiral Dr. Marsieto. The book “Indonesian Sea Power is a well written piece in recommending a strategic defense transformation of Indonesia through Sea Power. This article will be focusing on key aspects in the book that have potential to influence the policies and the operations within the Philippines based on my own opinion.

Marcel Proust said that a country will continue to repeat its own history; it will experience again the action, reaction, secrets, and mysteries it once experienced in the past. Those who could not realize this will never understand the meaning of historical endeavor. This is similar to the oft quoted words by our own Jose Rizal: “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan." ("He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.").

History is important in laying the foundation of the importance of shifting the focus of Indonesia to the sea. The intricacies of the maritime roots of Asia were harnessed by several empires (coined “Maritime Empires”) in achieving their conquests at sea. The Indonesian Navy, molded by these past experiences, changed how it will be harnessing such vast information through the Minimum Essential Force (MEF). The MEF is a policy structuring mechanism for force planning to have capabilities designed to face current and future challenges and threats in order to uphold sovereignty, territorial integrity and the safety of all Indonesian citizens. The MEF is divided into three phases, the last one being the 2020-2024 phase which aims to build and refine the synergy between the Indonesia Standby Force, Striking Force and Peacekeeping Operations.

The Philippines has identified itself to the world as an archipelagic nation since the passage of Republic Act 9522, establishing the archipelagic baselines of our country in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). However, within the confines of our own country, this non-nouveau concept has not yet fully sunk in with our countrymen, both government and civilian. The implications of this announcement remain known to a small circle.

The Philippines has generally forgotten the roots of the Philippines as a maritime nation, a hub of economic trade, and a militarily strategic nation geographically. In his book, Dr. Marsieto said that for a nation to understand its true identity, it must first comprehend its long and complicated history, national and local. History brings us tradition, including traditions as a maritime state.

At the outset, aiming to educate for example, our fishermen, on the intricacies of the UNCLOS seems absurd, given the seemingly technical nature of UNCLOS. However, this will form part in the identification among the Filipino people of the Philippines as being an archipelagic nation and would spark a public clamor for knowing the implications of the

UNCLOS to our nation. The moment we signed and ratified the UNCLOS, we agreed to abide by the rule of law stated therein, which automatically implicated all marine and maritime activities within the country, including the daily “pag-laot” (going into the sea) of our fishermen. We should strive to be unified in identifying ourselves as an archipelagic nation, similar to the strong pronouncements of Indonesia, in order for us to establish not only the baselines of our territory, but also the baselines for the collective movement for the Filipino people to be more sea-oriented and for the government to harness our own Sea Power.

Sea Power in not a novel concept and was first introduced by Alfred Thayer Mahan in his book “The Influence of Sea Power upon History: 1660-1783”. Sea power was best described in a nutshell by Sir Walter Raleigh in the 17 th Century as “whosoever commands the sea, commands the trade, whosoever commands the trade of the world, commands the riches of the world, and consequently, the world itself.” The term sea control is closely related to a nation’s level of Sea Power. Sea control constitutes not only fleets of warships but also all the country’s national potential related to the seas, including law enforcement agencies at sea, merchant fleet ports, as well as maritime industry and hospitality. This understanding of sea control was further specified as follows:

1. Defense. Ability of the state to ensure the use of the seas for national interest and prevent enemies or unwelcome parties from doing the same;

2. Economic. The seas are pillars of the economy in the areas of trade, maritime industry, national maritime transportation and marine resources development.

3. Science and Technology. The nation would have the latest maritime-related technology for hydrography-oceanography, fishery, surveillance, and marine resources exploitation and development.

Sea power demands the ability to unify all national maritime components not only during times of conflict but more importantly, also during times of peace. A stark example would be the two elements of national power which are diplomatic and military power. The link between foreign and defense policies are compulsory. The common denominator that could link these two policies is a national security strategy. Thus, the two aspects are inter- related and should be guided by a single national strategy rather than separate strategies on naval diplomacy and military actions.

Admittedly, the Philippines has been largely focused on land, such that policies on national development of the land is generally separate from the national development of the sea. However, recently, numerous government agencies, led by the National Coast Watch Council has recognized this need for developing a single national strategy through the review of the 1994 National Marine Policy (NMP) in order to inspire a “shift in the development policy which will emphasize our status as an archipelagic state.”

The works of Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan were generously quoted throughout the book. Mahan described six elements of the main fundamentals to establish a nation with immense sea power, these are: (1) geography, (2) extent of all territory, (3) population, (4) character of people, (5) character of government and (6) physical confrontation. These concepts will be echoed throughout the book.

The geographical position of the country was stated as the most significant element. This is a factor that generally cannot be changed and is already a given aspect of a country. For the Philippines, we are, strategically located and we have the potential to harness our geography, economically and politically.

The extent of the territory and the population were said to be dependent on one another since the coastlines and the ports are not only developed for commercial importance but also for safety and security reasons as well. This would be addressed by the implementation of a national marine strategy based on the soon to be crafted NMP which will encompass Political and Jurisdictional aspects, Area Development and Conservation, Area Regulation and Law Enforcement, and Maritime Security.

Physical confrontation, on the other hand, would depend on the combination of all of the abovementioned elements, the capacity and capability of the country (specifically lines of communications, concentration of power, and fire power to destroy the enemy’s armada) as well as a national strategy as opposed to a military strategy. The Philippine national strategy, based on the NMP will address the development of Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).

MDA plays and important part in ensuring the country’s understanding of incidents at sea and along the coastline and the formulation of the right solution to solve them. The idea of an MDA came from the reaction of the United States of America (US) to the 9/11 attacks in New York. US defines MDAs as the collection, fusion, and dissemination of enormous quantities of data, intelligence and information to generate actionable intelligence. MDA thus involves all stakeholders, from shipping and logistic companies, port authorities to related government agencies which would enable all related parties to respond quickly in case of any incident threatening the country’s maritime security. It was conceded in the book that no single government agency or even a single country could have the capability and capacity to achieve MDA alone. MDA necessitates a broad spectrum of collaboration towards building a capacity to process and identify future maritime threats.

The need for the development of MDA becomes a necessity with the introduction of the UNCLOS given that countries were given new maritime entitlements such as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the Archipelagic Sea Lanes (ASLs) for archipelagic states such as Indonesia and the Philippines. Dr. Marsieto recommended the establishment of a new international mechanism that provides benefits for all involved parties in securing the waters and straits used by international shipping, specifically the ones related to global economy under the umbrella of an international body which will cover both aspects of global prosperity and security. This proposal was given in view of the inevitability of maritime security interdependence among countries due to the acknowledgement of the importance of the maritime domain in terms of politics, economy and security. The ASEAN Maritime Forum was seen as one good example used by Indonesia in proposing regional cooperation frameworks.

Possible shifts in Sea Power was also attributed to technologically reworked innovations such as the submarine for underwater exploration, exploitation and defense, amphibious and anti-amphibious operations, in which a possibility of the “iron man” armor can be developed, and sea-basing, which basically means turning towards the sea, wherein for example, the naval bases can provide seamlessly inter-operable capabilities and capacities to secure possible air, surface, and underwater threats. As such, the capabilities and capacities of the marine and maritime agencies of the Philippines should be continually assessed to address and adapt to these new technological innovations.

Of the six elements towards being a nation with immense sea power, the two elements of the character of the people and the government might be the least addressed within the Philippines. As was stated earlier, the Philippine government tends to focus on creating land-based policies. The review of the 1994 NMP, although a big leap in terms of shifting government land based ideologies towards being more maritime in nature, is just the tip of the iceberg. Other movements from the academe, the Judiciary and the Legislative Department would be a major contribution through the combination of efforts. A relevant example would be a more proactive approach of the legislative department in passing bills which will make us more sea-based and compliant with the UNCLOS. Examples of these bills that are already filed with the Philippine Congress are the Maritime Zones Bill and the ASL Bill.

The character of the people and the government was elucidated to be intertwined with one another inasmuch as a government with a maritime character will have the capacity to create a nation and people of maritime identity. Changing the character of the government, much more so, the character of the people is akin to changing the culture of our countrymen to be more focused and involved in matters of the sea. It entails a re- education of viewing ourselves as a maritime nation, a sea-based people. This would necessitate not only programs and policies from the government but more importantly, an inculcation of Filipino Pride for our seas through the sense of ownership and entitlement of the Filipino people in the richness and the vast potential of our waters and the inherent need to protect what is ours.