Support for maritime livelihoods, marine ecosystems, sustainable development
In May 2022, Vice President Kamala Harris led a working lunch with Southeast Asian leaders on maritime cooperation as part of the historic U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit in Washington, DC, where she launched $60 million worth of new regional maritime initiatives, most of which are led by the U.S. Coast Guard. Her visit to Palawan, the Philippines and her engagement with the Philippines Coast Guard continues this work, as she will see firsthand the outcomes of this partnership, and work to strengthen it further.
The Vice President’s visit demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to stand with our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order in the South China Sea, promoting marine conservation, supporting maritime livelihoods, and countering illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing.
As part of her effort to uphold international rules and norms, the Vice President will reiterate the importance of international law, unimpeded commerce, and freedom of the seas, and will make clear that upholding such rules and norms helps protect Philippine lives and livelihoods.
And as part of her efforts to strengthen maritime cooperation throughout Southeast Asia, the Vice President will expand the United States’ whole-of-government partnership with Philippine maritime law enforcement agencies, building on our longstanding partnership and continuing to expand training and build capacity.
Building on the new initiatives announced in Manila yesterday, the Vice President is now launching the following the new initiatives:
- Maritime Law Enforcement Assistance: The United States will provide $7.5 million in additional assistance to enhance the capabilities of Philippine maritime law enforcement agencies. This will enable Philippine maritime law enforcement agencies to increase their capacity and capability to counter illegal fishing, improve maritime domain awareness, and provide search and rescue support, including in the South China Sea.
- Supporting Sustainable Fishing in the South China Sea: The United States, through USAID, will launch a new partnership with local stakeholders in the western Philippines to support traditional livelihoods and sustainable fishing practices, strengthen food security, and advance the conservation marine ecosystems in the South China Sea that are vulnerable to development and climate change. Through this partnership, USAID is also announcing a grant to a local organization to implement conservation and climate change actions in the South China Sea, including but not limited to building capacity in marine resource governance, conducting marine scientific research and disseminating findings, raising public awareness about the importance of the South China Sea, and supporting sustainable natural resource production by coastal communities and micro- and small enterprises.
- Philippine Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Management System: The U.S. Trade and Development Agency, pending Congressional notification, will support the Philippine Coast Guard in upgrading and expanding its vessel traffic management system (VTMS) to enable improved maritime safety and environmental monitoring. As a nation comprised of over 7,000 islands and growing vessel traffic activity, the Philippines needs to expand its VTMS capabilities to cover major ports and navigation paths. This support will help develop a comprehensive VTMS for major ports in the Philippines to enable improved maritime safety, search and rescue operations, and environmental monitoring.
- Increase in Visa Validity for C1/D Crew Visas: The United States is increasing the validity of C-1/D nonimmigrant visas for Philippine merchant and cruise ship crew personnel to 10 years. Philippine workers dominate the global cargo and cruise industries, accounting for over 30 percent of the world’s seafarers. By increasing the visa reciprocity, the United States will further facilitate the travel of Filipino seafarers to strengthen the global supply chain, support the U.S. cruise industry, and continue providing an important source of income for Filipino workers.