The Southeast Asian Archipelago includes the world’s busiest shipping lanes, its most biodiverse marine environment, and many of the global leaders in fisheries production. No other maritime region combines the geographic and political complexity of this area, making it one of the world’s most challenging maritime security environments. The maritime security challenge is especially daunting around the Sulu and Celebes Seas. Here, the region’s three most populous states, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, converge in a tri-border area with a complex political history and a long legacy of illicit maritime activity.
Stable Seas: Sulu and Celebes Seas adopts a holistic approach to analyze linkages between maritime governance themes and maritime security challenges in the Sulu and Celebes Seas.
Stronger maritime governance requires enacting solutions to complicated and interrelated problems like poor coastal economic welfare, rooted shadow economies, human trafficking, and organized political violence against soft coastal and offshore targets. This report shows how such problems relate to each other and, importantly, how the improvement or worsening of any one issue area can have downstream consequences for seemingly unrelated maritime security threats. This holistic approach to the topic can facilitate stronger cooperation, both within and across governments, for the ultimate purpose of sustainable maritime security. In turn, this progress should hamper the illicit networks and violent political organizations that have used the poor security environment to finance and facilitate their efforts.
Although piracy and armed robbery incidents in Southeast Asia have significantly declined, security concerns remain in the Sulu and Celebes Seas;
The region’s most populous states, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, converge in an area with a complex political history and a legacy of illicit maritime activity;
The improvement and worsening of any one issue can have repercussions that impact the region’s wider maritime security;
Illicit maritime activities are intricately rooted in complex issues like poor coastal economic welfare, shadow economies, and organized political violence against coastal and offshore targets;
The vulnerability of coastal regions to the boom and bust cycles of global commodities markets gives rise to troubling political actors who weaken the local rule of law and facilitate subversive activities such as piracy, armed robbery, kidnapping, and trafficking;
The three countries are strengthening maritime enforcement and governance in the region by working independently, tri-laterally, and with international partners; and
This report can inform stronger cooperation within and across governments in order to hamper the activities of illicit networks and cultivate sustainable maritime security.