In the simplest of terms, the Philippine government plays by the game of diplomacy. The national interest and its security is the Philippine currency in each of its dealings with foreign nations, regional organizations, and international bodies. As explained in the first part of this article, there are three Foreign Policy Pillars in place, as established by Republic Act No. 7157, or the “Philippine Foreign Service Act of 1991”: national security, economic diplomacy, and the rights and welfare of Filipinos overseas.
The Philippines is a founding member of ASEAN in 1967, and it continues to play a role in the building and fostering of consensus within the member-states of the organization.
Under our first Foreign Policy Pillar, the national interest is located in the midst of prevailing geopolitical conditions. After experiencing the horrors of two World Wars, the tragedies of global terrorist threats, and the failure of maximizing international law, the Philippine government has acted within its limits in the new global world order.
During the Aquino administration, the major concern was to build a safe and strong regional neighborhood. This has put the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as its focal point. The Philippines is a founding member of ASEAN in 1967, and it continues to play a role in the building and fostering of consensus within the member-states of the organization. Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario calls ASEAN as the “bedrock of Philippine foreign policy in the 21st century”, as it should be.
Promoting the national security means strengthening its peaceful relations with other countries for the benefit of both parties. ASEAN has been a hopeful partner for the Philippines in resolving its territorial disputes, and a greater partner for the realization of an ASEAN Community Council, ASEAN Political-Security Community Council, ASEAN Economic Community Council, and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council. All of these sub-regional bodies are being formed in its wish to create an integrated ASEAN Community, which was launched in 2015, but is yet to be seen in its most effective form.
Though we build the strongest partnership with ASEAN, engagement with fellow nations must also be taken with the highest priority. Relations with the United States, Japan, India, and Brazil, Germany, Indonesia and other regional powers are mutually beneficial in terms of security and defense. Efforts towards strengthening the resolve of the Philippine government in defending its territory in the name of national security should never hamper an independent foreign policy that the framers of our Constitution intended to have.
Though we build the strongest partnership with ASEAN, engagement with fellow nations must also be taken with the highest priority.
In the purview of a Mearsheimerian realist world, our partnership with the United States in protecting our territorial sovereignty is a necessary evil. Defense modernization in the Philippines is the core element in the implementation of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), both of which are formed through the bilateral relations between the Philippines and the United States. True enough, we have saddled too comfortably with our white brethren. But in an age of a shifting alignments and a new world order, the Philippine government should never put most of its eggs in the American basket.
Classic ideas of balance-of-power and containment have outlived their relevance. It is imperative that we expand our cooperation with other nations on fresh dangers, including transnational crime, piracy and terrorism, as well as on cooperation for humanitarian emergencies. In addition to our treaties with the US, the Philippine government has expanded security engagements with Japan for maritime security. Also, the Senate has ratified the Visiting Forces Agreement with Australia in June 2012.
Our country must also continue its vibrant relations with the countries of the Middle East in resolving the Mindanao problems, the Palestinian issues, and global terrorism. In 2010, the Philippines hosted the Special Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development (SNAMM). This has produced the Manila Declaration which was extensively approved by foreign delegations on key principles in the achievement of peace and development thorough interfaith dialogue.
In diplomacy of the best kind, two words are of prime importance: cooperation and diplomacy. These are best manifested in our participation in ASEAN. The mechanisms constructed in recent years by ASEAN, including the ASEAN Regional Forum engage all the powers with interests in our region in non-confrontational, inclusive, and transparent dialogues that serve to enhance peace and stability, in the region and beyond.
Both these concepts are best applied in international organizations, such as the United Nations. As a founding member of the UN in 1945, we have pushed forth the advancement of global peace and development, all with the aid of our allies and friends in the organization. We have chaired the 2010 Review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), continually provide peacekeeping forces from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, and humanitarian assistance in the most depressed areas; a commitment we continue to uphold internationally and domestically.
We want to avoid foreign problems spilling over into our homeland or our region.
But why must the Philippines continue to be engaged on the regional and global stage? It is because of our self-interest, and we join the self-interest of others, for our own benefit. We want to avoid foreign problems spilling over into our homeland or our region. The pursuit of national development for which access to prosperous world markets and safe maritime routes is as essential to the Philippines, as it is for Southeast Asia.
This year, the Philippines will chair the 30th and 31st ASEAN Summit, an annual meeting of the ASEAN members, specifically the Heads of Government and their foreign ministers. This will be the perfect opportunity for the Philippine government to showcase its capacity to lead the region into greater development, pursuing a foreign policy focused on peace and stability based upon the equality of nations. Though ASEAN implements its policy of non-interference and consensus building, we should be more than hopeful that the Philippine government can do its task of resolving long-standing disputes with its fellow members in the region.
Our policies on national security envision a long-term, deliberate government policy sustained and adjusted by several administration aimed at making the government and its people responsible for containing and responding to internal and external threats to ensure the nation’s security. We have our allies, and we have those who are yet to be our allies. We should rely on the rule of law and the peaceful settlements of disputes. Built on the architecture of cooperation, friendship, and amity, our policy on national security is to be a friend for all, and an enemy to none.
Jaconiah Shelumiel T. Manalaysay is your next door diplomat. Graduating from the University of the Philippines-Diliman with a degree in Political Science, Jake is currently finishing his MA in Political Science, major in Global Politics from the Ateneo de Manila University. His research interests include Philippine foreign policy, international relations, political theory, and comparative politics. A game show fanatic and Model United Nations addict, he is currently affiliated as a Research Fellow at the Philippine-California Advanced Research Institute in Manila.