By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

MARITIME MEET. South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Lee Sang-hwa answers questions from the media on the sidelines of Korea’s National Foundation Day reception in Taguig City on Tuesday (Oct. 3, 2023). Lee said South Korea and the Philippines are set to discuss current developments and security over the West Philippine Sea in their upcoming maritime meeting next week. (PNA photo by Joyce Rocamora)

MANILA – South Korea and the Philippines are set to discuss current developments and security over the West Philippine Sea in their upcoming maritime meeting, South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Lee Sang-hwa has said.

Lee said the two states will hold the 2nd Philippine-South Korea Maritime Cooperation Dialogue in Manila next week following their successful inaugural meeting in 2022.

“Amid the growing tension to the situation in this part of the world, we are expecting to cover a variety of issues ranging from protection of the maritime ecosystem, safety and security in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea and the Korea-Philippine military-to-military and defense industry cooperation,” he told reporters on the sideline of Korea’s National Foundation Day reception in Taguig City on Tuesday night.

South Korea earlier joined the growing number of states calling out “actions that raise tensions” in the South China Sea shortly after the Chinese Coast Guard used water cannons against Philippine Coast Guard vessels last August.

In explaining the move, Lee said the public statement was in line with the South Korean government’s “firm belief and standing position about the importance of peace and stability in this region”.

“Since my arrival, I felt strongly (that) we should add our voice to the growing concern about the situation. So our embassy issued a statement,” he said.

The upcoming dialogue will reflect the two nations’ growing interest in further developing their maritime cooperation as they mark 75 years of bilateral relations in 2024, Lee said.

READ: South Korea-PH, turning decades-old ties into opportunities 

The meeting will also cover various areas of cooperation including ways to maximize the blue economy or economic activities that bank on the sustainable use of oceans and sea.

Lee said the two governments are working on “some agreements” related to maritime cooperation but is not sure whether talks would conclude in time for the bilateral meeting.

“There’s a growing support for Korea’s more active role in the maritime domain awareness, which is defined by issues like the environment, maritime economy, and security and stability — I would expect we will enhance our cooperation in that direction,” he said.

South Korea and the Philippines inaugurated the Maritime Cooperation Dialogue in Busan last year.

During the first meeting, the two states agreed to exchange best practices, enhance capacity-building programs, including in defense and maritime law enforcement, and explore partnerships on technology transfer in maritime transport and maritime education. (PNA)