Message at the Second Manila Conference on the South China Sea

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4 August 2016,
Manila Hotel

PAEP-quote-FSIDistinguished Speakers, Esteemed Participants, Good Afternoon!

Let me first congratulate the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) for organizing this Second Manila Conference on the South China Sea. This could not have come at a better time as it follows the triumph of our country in the arbitration case against China over the West Philippine Sea.

Now I move on to my task of officially closing this two-day event. I am thankful to Prof. Charmaine Misalucha-Willoughby for providing a succinct summary of the conference proceedings.

My humble contribution to the already rich discussions will be my thoughts on the role of the academe in pursuing research to aid policy formulation, promote policy discussion, and strengthen policy implementation.

The academe is a wellspring of knowledge and its scholars are key contributors to knowledge generation and dissemination. This conference itself is a testament to the expertise available in academic and research institutions.

It is very important for the academe to immerse itself in the analyses of high-impact and high-value issues with the goal of making meaningful contributions to society. The image of academia as an ivory tower far removed from the concerns of the people must be changed.

To be effective movers for social progress, universities, research centers, and other institutions of higher learning, must partner with government agencies, the private sector, civil society, and like-minded institutes. The collaboration of various sectors can bring out new perspectives and innovative ideas that may be the creative solutions that have long eluded us in addressing problems in our society.

What good is a policy study when it remains contained in the academe? What purpose will it serve when the parties that could use it are not even aware it exists? How comprehensive can a study be if there is no collaboration with concerned sectors?

Cooperation, a much used concept in this conference, is crucial to the success of any undertaking. In the same way that academic communities work to establish linkages, other sectors must also recognize what can be achieved with the help of our scholars and experts in the academe.

In the University of the Philippines (UP), there are many units that can collaborate on initiatives that address the various issues surrounding the South China Sea.

I would like to emphasize that it is important to tackle such issues using a multidisciplinary approach. No one field can provide a full appreciation of all the perspectives to be considered—historical, cultural, legal, political, economic, and environmental, among others.

At the UP System level, we have the Center for Integrative and Development Studies (CIDS). It recently organized the public lecture by Dr. Aileen Baviera, who presented her study on the domestic stakeholders of our maritime disputes with China and Taiwan. Her work’s aim was to aid in the formulation of foreign policy.

The CIDS has also just completed its review of our country’s National Marine Policy, which was undertaken for the Office of the President of the Philippines, with support from the Office of the Executive Secretary and the National Coast Watch Council.

Apart from the CIDS, we also have the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea (IMLOS), Asian Center, Center for International Studies, and the Marine Science Institute (MSI); not to mention the other academic units with expertise in governance, law, economics, policy studies, cultural studies, the social sciences, and environment and natural resources.

One specific initiative we are developing in UP is the establishment of a Track Two dialogue mechanism involving researchers and analysts from the Philippines and China. This mechanism we hope will help in exploring ways of moving forward on the West Philippine Sea question. We are planning it in support of the government to promote confidence building and conflict management with China in the West Philippine Sea. The UP initiative will be offered to and undertaken in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the National Security Council.

Track Two is not a backchannel. But it is strictly unofficial in nature, involving mainly researchers, analysts, and experts. Outputs of Track Two activities are non-binding on governments.

As much as UP is committed to serving the Filipino nation and lead in higher education and national development, I am heartened to know that there are institutions, academicians, and passionate individuals like all of you who are open to working with concerned sectors in finding solutions to problems that beset Philippine society and the rest of the international community.

On that positive note, I formally close the FSI’s Second Manila Conference on the South China Sea.

Thank you.

This message is part of the collection of Messages from the President of the University of the Philippines. You can access the other pieces by clicking through the image below.