Strong partnership, deep friendship
The past weeks were critical in terms of asserting our country’s territorial sovereignty and integrity.
In late April, China renewed its provocative acts in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). During a maritime patrol from April 18 to 24, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) identified over 100 Chinese vessels in the WPS. Two of the PCG’s vessels were also involved in a “confrontation” with the Chinese in separate incidents near Pag-asa and Ayungin Shoal.
Last week, President Marcos flew to Washington to meet with US President Joseph Biden and other key American officials. The overarching theme of the meetings was cooperation—defense and economic growth.
The two presidents met at the White House on May 1, just a month after Mr. Marcos announced that there would be four more sites—bringing the total to nine—for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
Biden reaffirmed his country’s commitment—he used the term “ironclad”—to defend the Philippines in the event of an armed attack on our armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Indo-Pacific, particularly in the WPS. The two countries did not only share a strong partnership, he said, but a deep friendship. As evidence of this, the defense secretaries of the two countries—our Acting Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III—established the Bilateral Defense Guidelines on May 3 to modernize alliance cooperation in service of the US and the Philippines’ shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
While these events were unfolding in the US, we at the Stratbase ADR Institute hosted a forum called “Modernizing Philippine Defense Capabilities and Elevating Security Partnerships.”Former armed forces chief Emmanuel Bautista reminded us that we have the high legal and moral ground on which to stand, through our victory before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. We should leverage this capital as we seek and fortify alliances with others in the international community.
Brett Blackshaw, political counselor for the US Embassy in the Philippines, said our focus on maritime cooperation is to ensure that the Philippines has a credible deterrent to uphold and defend its sovereign rights. “The past shows us that appeasement does not work,” he said. Stratbase trustee Dr. Renato de Castro said we should rethink force modernization so we can address long-term external security threats that are still hidden by the fog of peace. Retired Maj. Gen. Joaquin Malavet, former director for Strategic Plans and Policy for the US Indo-Pacific Command, said the US recognizes it could do much more for defense cooperation and relationship with the Philippines, principally helping it modernize and be prepared at certain facilities and locations.
Indeed, the Indo-Pacific region has become complex and multipolar as a result of increased competition and cooperation. Threats—traditional, nontraditional, and evolving—have the potential to upset the rules-based international order that has fostered an unprecedented era of global stability and economic prosperity.
Only multilateral cooperation and strong alliances among like-minded states will ensure the collective peace and security of the region. This, as well, is the primordial national interest of Filipinos—to live in a peaceful, stable world where states have mutual respect for rights and rules.
Partnerships with other countries—the US, for instance, remains the most trusted by Filipinos, followed by Japan and Australia—enable us to defend our sovereignty against bullies and to live in a world where rules are supreme and decency and respect are lived, in words and actions.
We continue to nurture our relationship with friends like the US who is now putting into action their commitment to enhance the capability of our military, protect the livelihood of our fisherfolk, and sustain a spirit of co-prosperity in an environment of peace that’s free from the specter of conflict.
Dindo Manhit is founder and CEO of the Stratbase Group.