Remarks by Ambassador Rod Smith
Closing Ceremonies of the Philippine-Australia Port Security Capacity Building Project
19 June 2009, Makati City
Secretary Mendoza, Undersecretary Penilla, Undersecretary Bautista, Commodore Banaria, other senior Philippine Government officials, other invited guests,
On behalf of the Australian Government, welcome and thank you for joining us for the culminating ceremony for the Philippines-Australia Port Security Capacity Building Project.
Australia and the Philippines enjoy a strong and cooperative relationship. This relationship is particularly important as both countries work together to improve international and national security and reduce the threat of terrorism. Our cooperation on security issues is exemplified by the success of this very project.
As a trading nation and as the second largest archipelagic nation in the world, the Philippines depends heavily on its maritime industry for the safe, efficient and reliable movement of goods and people both within the country and internationally. It is the integral and strategically critical nature of the maritime sector to the Philippines that underscores the importance of an effective national maritime security regime.
This is what has been achieved through this project: a national maritime security regime that enables more secure domestic, regional and international trade, safer and more secure passenger travel, and increased customer and public confidence in port facilities and maritime transport networks.
The project is concluding after almost five years of close cooperation and collaboration between our countries to improve maritime security within the Philippines. We are heartened at the strength of the relationships that have been developed between Australian and Philippine project staff and at the commitment shown by all involved.
I would like to acknowledge the work of key staff from the Philippines Office for Transportation Security, the Philippine Ports Authority, Cebu Ports Authority and the Philippine Coast Guard, as well as maritime counterparts from the private sector including port facility and ship operators and the various shipping associations. And I would particularly like to thank Secretary Mendoza and Undersecretary Penilla who have been with the project since its inception and have provided leadership, guidance and support throughout. This project would not have been such a success without your leadership.
OTS Maritime Security Bureau Director, Sid Banaria, has given us a presentation on the achievements over the lifespan of the project: about the widespread impact of the project, the extensive delivery of training, the development of security plans, the implementation of a national regulatory framework for the ongoing management of maritime security issues, and the positive assessments of maritime security arrangements by external bodies such as the US Coast Guard. These achievements are your successes, and we are pleased to have been able to work with you to help you achieve them.
As we do with all our development cooperation projects, we recently conducted an Independent Completion Review of the port project. This is a robust, independent process. I am pleased to be able to tell you that the review was highly favourable – in fact it concluded that the project had achieved significant success and had exceeded expectations. It identified as a key factor the commitment of Philippine agencies and industry to strengthening the maritime security regime and culture throughout the country. The level of engagement and cooperation between partners to the project was equally lauded. The review team also found clear linkages between improvements in port and ship security to economic growth in the sector, underlining again the importance of security as an enabler for trade, investment and tourism.
The sustainability of project outcomes is essential to the continued success in securing the maritime sector. I am confident that the many Philippine agencies and industry partners involved in the project will continue to ensure that maritime security in the Philippines remains of a high standard.
One important hurdle remains, and that is approval by Congress of the Philippine Transportation Security Authority Bill. The Independent Completion Review identified the absence of a clear statutory basis for the oversight of the transport security sector as one key risk to the sustainability of the gains this project has achieved. As is evident in the regulatory arrangements of many countries and international transport bodies, this is a specialised field that requires dedicated resources and clear regulatory, coordination and enforcement mechanisms.
Australia looks forward to the finalisation of the Bill to ensure regulatory and funding certainty, and as a further demonstration of the Philippines’ commitment to the highest possible standards of maritime and transport security.
In closing, allow me again to congratulate the Philippines on the successful conduct of this project. I would also like to acknowledge the roles played by the Australian project team including AusAID, the Department of Infrastructure, Intelligent Outcomes Group as the technical advisors, and Sustainable Development Solutions as the coordinating and logistical team supporting the project.
I would also like to congratulate Don Anderson who as project Director has guided the project through its five years and provided the enthusiasm and expertise which has helped bring the project to its successful conclusion. Don returns to Australia next week. I wish him well on his return and all the best for his future.
Thank you again, and good afternoon.