Legal officers chart course in the Philippines

Legal experts from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) conducted a maritime security workshop with officials from the Government of the Philippines in Manila during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 22.

CAPTION: Officials from the Philippines Government attend Australian-run maritime security workshop as part of Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2022 in Manila, Philippines. Story by Captain Zoe Griffyn. Photo by Corporal Brandon Grey.

Commander Cameron Moore, RAN Reservist and Associate Professor at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources & Security, was one of the presenters at the workshop, which focused on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“Our Defence strategy involves upholding the rules-based international order of a free and open Indo-Pacific, and specifically mentions the Law of the Sea Convention,” Commander Moore said.

“To uphold that order we need to talk about the rules.”

UNCLOS is an international agreement that establishes a legal framework for all maritime activities, including economic and commercial, and dispute settlement relating to ocean matters.

“The seas link maritime states such as Australia and the Philippines to the world, and security and prosperity depend on safe passage and stability at sea,” Commander Moore said.

“Through workshops like these we gain the confidence to assert the laws of the sea by talking about them and how they apply in real-world situations.”

Participants in the workshop included officials from the National Security Council, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of National Defence and the Philippine National Police.

Legal Officer Major Justine G. Santos, from the Philippines Legal Office of the Naval Judge Advocate, appreciated the interactive nature of the day.

“This is different because it’s not just learning about UNCLOS, it’s challenging how it can be applied in scenarios that are not black and white,” Major Santos said.

“As legal officers, we need to challenge what has been instilled in our minds so we can give the right advice to a commander when different operational factors impact a situation.”

Australian Deputy Ambassador to the Philippines Richard Sisson closed the first day with a reception celebrating 40 years of UNCLOS.

“Australia continues to support the region to uphold international law and norms, such as UNCLOS, which offer universally agreed and equitable solutions for how we manage the world’s oceans,” Mr Sisson said.

“Countering grey-zone activities and maintaining freedom of navigation represent new challenges to UNCLOS principles.

“Creativity and a commitment to international law will be essential ingredients to any peaceful solution.”





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