National interest as driver of foreign policy | Inquirer Opinion
Commentary

National interest as driver of foreign policy

/ 04:25 AM August 10, 2022

A true independent Philippine foreign policy is in the making. At least, it appears that way.

President Marcos Jr. pledged to maintain good relations with the rest of the world and vowed to stand firm in the country’s independent foreign policy. He said the national interest would be his primordial guide.

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With the current global political economy and uncertainties raised by geopolitics, Mr. Marcos has set the Philippines in a strategic position to balance its relations with other states.

There will also be balancing when our country collaborates and cooperates with others in areas of mutual benefit, while also consulting and discussing areas of disagreement.

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All eyes will now be on how Mr. Marcos navigates our bilateral and multilateral relations given the issues faced by the past administration and the challenges in the current state of regional affairs.

With national interest as the primordial guide of an independent foreign policy, the greater challenge for the Marcos Jr. presidency lies on two issues—asserting the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and protecting our marine resources in the country’s exclusive economic zones.

The latest Pulse Asia survey showed that 89 percent of Filipinos agree that the Marcos Jr. administration must assert our rights over the West Philippine Sea. This is national interest and is instructive of what the government should do.

The key to the promotion of these issues is the continuing and leveraging of alliances and partnerships with states committed to a rules-based international system.

On the grounds of maritime development and promoting stability in the region, French Ambassador to the Philippines Michèle Boccoz pronounced what is in store between France and the Philippines in the areas of maritime cooperation, defense, and development.

Negotiations about the conduct of joint maritime patrols, the provision of modern naval equipment, and other important aspects of maritime security between the two countries could hence be further pursued.

In the aspect of developing to a greater extent Philippines’ relations with France, definitive pillars of maritime cooperation should be explored, namely, (1) security and defense, by helping to maintain stability in the area; (2) economy and innovation by promoting innovative companies; (3) promotion of the rule of law, particularly with regard to international human rights and environmental law; and (4) sustainable management of the oceans with France’s commitment to the blue economy.

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The consideration given to the four pillars mentioned will be crucial in charting a maritime framework of cooperation and mutual development.

Moreover, a supplemental recalibration of the US-Philippine alliance is another stepping stone to move forward.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Mr. Marcos and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo to discuss bilateral efforts to strengthen the alliance. The Aug. 6 meeting covered increased cooperation on energy, trade, and investment, advancing shared democratic values, and pandemic recovery.

Positioning the Philippines as a more active global state actor sets a different tone from his predecessor, given that Mr. Marcos highlighted the promotion of stronger and more multifaceted relations in his foreign policy.

It will then boil down to how the Marcos Jr. administration uses the 2016 arbitral ruling to defend the country’s territorial integrity and sovereign rights. The former administration’s defeatist stance on this issue and shelving of the ruling has caused many lost opportunities for the Philippines.

Beyond the pursuit of an independent foreign policy, however, Mr. Marcos should prepare to leverage this policy to be more responsive and strategic.

Being attuned to developments in the political, economic, technological, and security spaces will enable us to promote—and stand for—the best interest of Filipinos in a rules-based regional and international order.

Dindo C. Manhit is the founder and CEO of the Stratbase Group.

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TAGS: Bongbong Marcos, Philippine foreign policy, Pulse Asia survey, US-Philippine ties, West Philippine Sea
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