Strategies for an independent foreign policy | Inquirer Opinion
Commentary

Strategies for an independent foreign policy

/ 05:02 AM October 14, 2022

With respect to our place in the community of nations, the Philippines shall continue to be a friend to all, an enemy to none.”

This was President Marcos Jr.’s declaration of Philippine foreign policy when he delivered his first State of the Nation Address last July 25, 2022. Within his first 100 days as president, Mr. Marcos has already demonstrated this independent foreign policy through his foreign travels in September 2022.

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Mr. Marcos met with various leaders during the said travels, including Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Singaporean President Halimah Yacob, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, US President Joe Biden, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. These engagements reiterate the strategic role of the Philippines in the international community and highlight the administration’s priority to expand Philippine relations.

Moving forward, Mr. Marcos must continue to strengthen Philippine diplomatic relations with other like-minded states by increasing official engagements. Presenting the Philippines as a friend to states, his independent foreign policy must involve Filipinos’ most trusted countries and blocs, including the European Union.

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The EU is heavily involved in the Indo-Pacific through its EU Indo-Pacific Strategy for Cooperation and in the Asean through the EU-Asean Strategic Partnership and the Global Gateway program. These multilateral strategies also enhance bilateral relations with the Philippines.

At the regional level, the Philippines serves as the Asean-EU country coordinator, elevating its role in the Indo-Pacific. The strategic partnership between the two regional organizations is further highlighted in recognition of the critical role of the Asean in the EU Indo-Pacific strategy.

The EU has proven itself as a credible partner for the Philippines, particularly in its expressed support for the latter’s arbitral victory in the West Philippine Sea. For the past six years, the EU has been an essential ally through its consistent call for a rules-based maritime order following the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The mutual interest to promote an open and rules-based regional security architecture was highlighted during the 2022 Indo-Pacific Strategy Forum hosted by the EU delegation to the Philippines last Oct. 7, 2022.

H.E. Luc Veron, EU ambassador to the Philippines, highlighted that through this strategy, the EU will work with partners, such as the Philippines, in upholding shared principles of peace, stability, prosperity, and respect for human dignity.

Paola Pampaloni, deputy managing director for the Asia-Pacific of the European External Action Service, delivered the keynote address where she underscored the interconnectedness of Europe and the Indo-Pacific. She said that as the region becomes the center of intense geopolitical tension, the EU strategy focuses on cooperation, not confrontation, among states.

Ms. Pampaloni also discussed another pathway for further collaboration through the EU’s Global Gateway program, a 300-billion euro global infrastructure project from 2021 to 2027. Key investment areas include the digital sector, climate and energy, transport, health, and education and research.

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Complementing these developments, PH-EU relations will reach new heights once Mr. Marcos sets off for his visit to Brussels upon the invitation of European Council President Charles Michel. Through these initiatives, the EU further reinforces its role as a reliable partner of the Indo-Pacific.

The first 100 days of the Marcos Jr. administration highlighted various priority areas, including foreign policy. His visits have so far been fruitful in bringing in more investments and strengthening diplomatic engagements.

Moving forward, the administration must continuously build strategies to reinforce its independent foreign policy and to elevate its diplomatic relations to address various challenges. This will ensure that the Philippines will develop long and lasting partnerships with credible and reliable allies.

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

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