By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienhey, Journalist
Foreign policy experts detect signs of stable relations between the Philippines and the United States under the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., which is moving away from his predecessor’s conciliatory position towards Beijing.
However, some experts said the Philippines’ foreign policy toward China and other rising powers remains vague, noting that it should be among the top concerns of the national security sector.
During his visit to the United States last week, Marcos expressed his commitment to preserving the Philippines’ alliance with the United States, which has called for a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region amid China’s expansive activities.
“In the context of the country’s current approach to China, recent statements and initiatives by President Marcos indicate a change in the country’s foreign policy,” said Victor Andres “Dindo” C. Manhit, President of Stratbase ADR Institute. for Strategic and International Studies. .
“Unlike the previous administration, which repeatedly announced the country’s separation from the United States, the president has been more open to expanding the country’s network of allies and strategic partners,” he said. he said in a Messenger chat.
Mr. Manhit said a return to U.S.-Philippine relations to a level prior to the administration of former President Rodrigo R. Duterte is driven by Mr. Marcos’ “multipolar worldview” and not a ” competition between China and the United States that Duterte obtained”. attracted”.
“This marks a clear break with the foreign policy position pursued by the previous administration.”
Marcos said Friday in New York on Saturday (PHL time) that his country does not have a territorial dispute with China, noting that it is Beijing that claims Philippine territories.
“I don’t think anyone is surprised that the Philippines has some of these conflicts with the People’s Republic of China. And the position of the Philippines is that we have no territorial dispute with China. What we have is China claiming territory that belongs to the Philippines,” he told Asia Society CEO and former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in an interview.
This is the position that the Philippines and its American partners “have been promoting”, said Marcos, who said that US-Philippine relations could contain tensions in the region.
“This statement is President Marcos’ finest rhetoric,” said Chester B. Cabalza, who studied national security and policymaking at the University of Delaware.
“I think Marcos Jr. is prepared for the consequences of his statements in Washington,” he said. “We will get the feel of his fundamental foreign policy in its entirety after his official visit to Beijing.”
In a meeting with US President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. last week, Marcos acknowledged Washington’s role in maintaining stability in the region.
“It is highly appreciated by all countries in the region and the Philippines in particular,” he said.
“His statements to Biden are music to Washington at a time when allegations are emerging in Beijing that Xi Jinping is being deposed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP),” said Cabalza, who observed the “evolution and proactivity” of the United States. -Philippines relations under Mr. Marcos.
Several social media posts by some India-based media outlets showed Chinese President Xi Jinping under house arrest after being removed from his post as head of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. State media and the ruling Chinese Communist Party have yet to release official confirmation.
“Any monumental change like this in China will certainly force Marcos to recalibrate,” Hansley A. Juliano, who writes on global political economy, said in a Messenger chat.
Mr. Juliano and Robin Michael U. Garcia, who teaches political economy at the University of Asia and the Pacific, both believe that Mr. Marcos’ China policy remains vague and lacks substance.
“It’s still not a concrete policy from China. It’s broad and vague,” Mr. Garcia said in a Messenger chat. “There’s nothing new in the president’s statement actually. It also doesn’t say much to China and the United States.
Garcia said Beijing’s concern is the extent to which the Philippines is willing to compromise and negotiate, while the United States is concerned about the level of the Philippines’ commitment to asserting its territories in the sea. of southern China” and the extent to which we are willing to ally with them.
“There’s not much difference in the maternity statements he’s talking about here,” Mr. Juliano said.
“As a given country is expected to balance its treaty commitments even with competing blocs or groups,” he said. “However, what world leaders are doing is not publicly disclosing their strategy.”
Mr. Juliano said changes in the Philippines’ foreign policy, or the rule of engagement with China for that matter, would be reflected in the country’s trade commitments as well as international relations (IR).
“Will the Department of Foreign Affairs under Marcos Jr. and other relevant agencies recalibrate our trade and IR commitments,” he asked. “Or will it continue as usual?”
“Sometimes the conversation here is not just the president’s individual will, but rather his economic managers and trade allies,” Juliano noted. “That was the case with Duterte and Marcos, and even to a lesser extent Arroyo and Aquino III.”
In the House of Representatives, Speaker Martin G. Romualdez said Sunday the chamber would pass any legislation the president needs to fulfill his investment promises.
“If the president needs legislation to deliver on the objectives of these bilateral trade and investment agreements, we will answer the call,” Romualdez said in a statement.
Mr. Marcos urged global investors, traders and other guests of the New York Stock Exchange to come to the Philippines and realize its potential as one of Asia’s fastest growing economies.
In terms of economic policy, maintaining the Philippines’ relationship with mainland China is “more important”, Juliano said. “However, there have been more cohesive cultural and economic ties with the Philippines under our shared American alliance.”
In his interview with the Asia Society, Marcos said that while his government would maintain its position on the maritime dispute with China, it would continue to engage Beijing on other aspects.
The Philippine leader told Philippine media after the event that he was ready to explore all options in dealing with territorial disputes with China.
Experts said the direction of the Philippines’ foreign policy would likely be tested by an escalating dispute between China and Taiwan, which lies just 190 kilometers north of the Philippines.
“The ongoing conflict between China and Taiwan poses a risk to the Philippines and the rest of the region,” Manhit said. “It should be seen as part of a more complex and multi-faceted geopolitical landscape that the Philippines would have to navigate.”
The Philippines should develop strategies with the aim of minimizing risks and safeguarding the country’s national interests, he said.
Mr Biden said earlier that US forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, according to a Reuters report. US officials made the same commitment to Manila, but local experts doubted Washington would keep its promise.
Mr. Cabalza, meanwhile, said the government’s food security efforts should spur Mr. Marcos to protect Filipino fishermen harassed by Beijing.
His work on food security as Secretary of Agriculture will open doors on how he will protect Filipino fishermen who are not allowed to fish in their traditional fishing grounds in disputed waterways,” he said. he declares. “He must use his political capital to protect our territorial integrity and national sovereignty from encroachment and illegal fishing by Chinese fishing fleets.”
Comprehensive territorial defense should involve the Bureau of Food and Aquatic Resources and the Department of Agriculture, which should be responsible for protecting marine natural resources, Cabalza said.
Mr Marcos took office in June, vowing to make the Philippines “everyone’s friend and no one’s enemy”. — with a report of Kyanna Angela Bulan