Forging solidarity for regional peace and stability

The recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit and East Asia Forum, both held in Jakarta, Indonesia, from Sept. 5 to 7, were overshadowed by China’s release of its new “standard” map. This map, which now includes 10 dash lines instead of nine, not only continues to make territorial claims that the Permanent Court of Arbitration has already rejected, but also lays claim to additional areas in Taiwan and India. This brazen move by China is a cause for concern and demands a critical response from the international community. The Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam have all rejected the map.

During the Asean Summit, President Marcos pushed for the issuance of a joint Asean statement on China’s recent actions in the South China Sea (SCS), including the release of the map. He articulated his vision of the SCS as a sea of peace, stability, and prosperity, but acknowledged that today, it is in a state of geopolitical discord. He said the Philippines would never allow the international peaceful order to be subjected to the forces of might because of hegemonic ambition. “We do not seek conflict; but it is our duty as citizens and as leaders to always rise to meet any challenge to our sovereignty, to our sovereign rights, and our maritime jurisdictions in the SCS. No country would expect any less. No country would do any less,” Mr. Marcos said.

This is part of the strong narrative that Mr. Marcos is creating against China’s expansionist claims. In his speeches in many venues, he has pushed for greater cooperation among like-minded states. He is positioning the Philippines as a strong player in the region, one that is able to push back against antagonistic and coercive states.

Unfortunately, the Code of Conduct in the SCS does not seem to be a priority for the region. It would have been the ultimate declaration of the shared values of Southeast Asian nations. But in the Chairman’s Statement—consisting of 34 pages and 164 items—not one mention was made on China’s new standard map. The Asean Chairman’s Statement did not have a strong stance at all on the issue of the SCS, even as the arbitral ruling has been in effect for the past seven years.


While we work on getting our Southeast Asian neighbors on the same page with regard to China’s coercive acts which are also affecting them, we look to our alliances with like-minded countries that hold the same values, principles, and reverence for an international order based on rules and decency. The East Asia Summit was attended by all Asean members, joined by Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States. The summit participants released a statement committing to maintain and promote the region as an epicenter of growth.

Mr. Marcos expressed his appreciation for the US as a longstanding, close, and reliable friend and ally of the Philippines during his intervention at the Asean-US summit. He also welcomed the trilateral maritime exercises conducted among the coast guards of the Philippines, Japan, and the US, which aimed to strengthen cooperation in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Cooperation can take many forms, but the optics of joint patrols with other countries convey a powerful message of solidarity. We are grateful for this show of support and unity. India and Australia are also key allies on this front. India has been vocal in its support of the Philippines on the West Philippine Sea issue. Meanwhile, Australia elevated our bilateral relations to a strategic partnership during the visit to Manila of its Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Sept. 8.

The defense and security challenges facing the Philippines and the region are becoming increasingly precarious because of the actions of coercive states that seek to advance their hegemonic ambitions. In the face of these threats, it is truly heartening to see nations that respect and uphold the rules-based international order coming together to form closer alliances, strengthen their commitments, and work together to protect peace and stability in the region. We must stand together in solidarity to overcome these challenges.

Dindo Manhit is founder and CEO of the Stratbase Group.