Fortifying our defense posture with allies | Inquirer Opinion

Fortifying our defense posture with allies

/ 05:02 AM March 10, 2023

Last month’s official visit of President Marcos Jr. to Japan affirmed our two countries’ closeness and like-mindedness. We have a common vision and goal: A strong, resilient Indo-Pacific region where the rule of law prevails, and where rogue, aggressive, and irrational acts have no place.

Recall that Japan first presented its vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific in 2016. This has since served as a framework for other similar strategies. States in the region, mindful of the common goal, have affirmed their commitment to preserving the international order. Last year, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Japan’s new national security strategy. This was a welcome development.

Indo-Pacific states, including the Philippines, are aware that the situation is complex, dynamic, and evolving, with risks that are both traditional and nontraditional. More than ever, they need to collaborate and reinforce each other’s capabilities and build on each other’s strengths. This ensures that they would have a strong stand against those that threaten to disturb the rules-based order, likely driven by a consuming expansionist ambition.


We were fortunate for the opportunity to have a hybrid-style town hall discussion about “Strengthening Partnerships Toward a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” Our friends from the diplomatic and academic/think tank communities shared their insights on how we could best fortify these partnerships—with Japan and other like-minded states in the Indo-Pacific.


In his opening speech, Kenichi Matsuda, deputy chief of mission, Japan Embassy in the Philippines, espoused the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific under the rule of law and acknowledged Japan’s and the Philippines’ shared values and principles.

“The Philippines is a crucial partner of Japan considering we share common values such as freedom, democracy, respect for basic human rights, and rule of law,” Matsuda said.

Miyake Kunihiko, research director at The Canon Institute for Global Studies, also supported a multilayer security, and a maritime policing mechanism involving the Philippines, Japan, and the United States.

Kunihiko said that joint patrols with the Philippines, Japan, the US, and even Australia are necessary to maintain the status quo in this part of the world.

Finally, Gregory Poling, senior fellow and director at the Southeast Asia Program and Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted that US engagement with the Philippines will not be sustainable if based only on security matters. He instead saw the need for far broader diplomatic and economic engagements.

Both Japan and the US have consistently supported the Philippines’ 2016 victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). As we know only too well, the favorable decision of the arbitral court did not end the West Philippine Sea disputes, as the other party has consistently refused to acknowledge the PCA’s jurisdiction and has not relented in its bullying tactics—the most recent one being the laser-pointing incident involving the Philippine Coast Guard.


Our alliances with like-minded states are central to keeping the peace and maintaining a rules-based order. The world has become polarized, and the security risks do not just threaten one state. On the contrary, it is the entire region’s stability and security that are at stake. We are grateful for our allies. Japan and the US continue to be the countries that Filipinos trust the most, according to a Stratbase-commissioned survey. There is a potential for a trilateral defense mechanism and a Visiting Forces Agreement with Japan. We are excited to imagine the possibilities that these points of cooperation will bring.

The President has consistently said that only national interest will drive our foreign policy. There is no greater national interest than security during these trying, complex, and precarious times. Filipinos deserve no less from our leader, who must uphold our territorial and sovereign rights. With invaluable help from our allies, this is our expectation and our hope.


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Dindo Manhit is founder and CEO of the Stratbase Group.

TAGS: defense, foreign relations, Japan, Philippines, United States

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