RSIS’ Maritme Security Programme held the inaugural Southeast Asia-focused workshop on maritime domain/situational awareness (MDA/MSA) on 24 January 2019. It was part of a broader project on MDA/MSA in the Indo-Pacific region.
The objective of this project is to closely examine the differing definitions and perspectives of MDA/MSA in the region, with an eye on exploring workable solutions that can promote practical maritime security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
The workshop started with a panel discussion touching on the various mainstream perspectives on MDA/MSA. Setting the stage was the overview of the conceptual underpinnings of MDA/MSA, leading to an introduction to the American notion of MDA/MSA — which has been widely adopted by countries around the world — followed by the European notion of MDA/MSA. One of the observations was that MDA/MSA could be seen from a narrow, technology-based lens or a broader one which transcends technologies to look at intangibles such as societies, and inter-agency and institutional dynamics.
The rest of the workshop focused on how six major players in Southeast Asia — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam — understand MDA/MSA. It transpired during the discussions that most of these countries may have adopted more or less the same lexicon of MDA/MSA, but they differ in their primary areas of focus and the institutional approaches towards implementing the concept. It was also noted that MDA/MSA in Southeast Asia was encumbered by the persistent capacity shortfalls faced by maritime security agencies across the region.