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The Philippines and US Pivot to Asia by Rommel Banlaoi
 

The Philippines and US Pivot to Asia by Rommel Banlaoi

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    The Philippines and US Pivot to Asia by Rommel Banlaoi The Philippines and US Pivot to Asia by Rommel Banlaoi Document Transcript

    • PHILIPPINE INSTITUTE FOR PEACE, VIOLENCE AND TERRORISM RESEARCH 2nd Floor, CPDRI Room, Asian Institute of Tourism, University of the Philippines Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City 1101 Philippines Telephone +632 9946972 Fax: +632 4333870 www.pipvtr.com THE PHILIPPINES AND U.S. PIVOT TO ASIA* Rommel C. Banlaoi**As an American ally, the Philippines has always been supportive of United States’military presence in Asia. Thus, it is no longer surprising to see the Philippineswarmly welcoming the U.S. pivot strategy to Asia.The U.S.-Philippines security alliance has been the cornerstone of Philippinedefense and security policy.1 Though this alliance was rendered dormant after thetermination of Military Bases Agreement (MBA) in 1991, the aftermath of theSeptember 11, 2001 (9/11) terrorist attacks reinvigorated this alliance. Thestrategy of U.S. pivot to Asia makes the strengthening of this alliance even moresignificant.To demonstrate the two countries’ firmed commitment to their alliancerelationship, the U.S. and the Philippines just held their 2-plus-2 meeting inWashington DC on 30 April 2012. This meeting allowed the two countries’foreign affairs and defense officials to exchange strategic perspectives on varioussecurity issues of mutual interests.The 2-plus-2 meeting is the first of its kind in the history of special relationsbetween the U.S. and the Philippines. The meeting aims to intensify the habit ofconsultation and cooperation on defense, security, political, economic andforeign policies between the two allies. Moreover, the meeting intends to solidifytheir existing alliance to respond effectively to current and emerging securitychallenges in the Asia Pacific.In the 2-plus-2 meeting, both reaffirmed the importance of their security allianceand decided to level up this alliance to meet the many security challenges facingboth countries. The Philippines, particularly, highlighted in this meeting theneed for the U.S. to continuously assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines                                                                                                                *Presented at the 11th Symposium of the Council for Asian Transnational Threat Research (CATR)organized by the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) and hosted by the Institute of Security andInternational Studies (ISIS) at Dusit Thani Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand on 2 May 2012.**Head, Center for Intelligence and National Security Studies (CINSS) of the Philippine Institutefor Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR).1For a good reference on U.S. Pivot Strategy, see Mark E. Manyin, et. al. Pivot to the Pacific: TheObama Administration’s “Rebalancing” Toward Asia (Washington DC: Congressional ResearchService, 28 March 2012).   1  
    • (AFP) in building its capacity for territorial defense, counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism, and nation building. It meant asking from the U.S. more access toExcess Defense Articles (EDA), greater priority to International MilitaryEducation and Training (IMET), and more grants from Foreign MilitaryFinancing (FMF). The Philippines cannot be a useful ally in U.S. pivot to Asiastrategy without adequate military capacity.The Philippines’ support to U.S. Pivot to Asia strategy was first officiallyarticulated on 16 November 2011 during the 60th Anniversary of the U.S-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). Signed in 1951, the MDT continuesto serve as the solid legal foundation of U.S.-Philippines security alliance.During this momentous event, both countries issued the Manila Declaration onU.S.-Philippines alliance where they stressed the continuing relevance of theirsecurity relations “for peace, security, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.”2Reading between the lines, the Manila Declaration strongly endorses U.S. pivot toAsia and the Pacific.In the Manila Declaration of 2011, the U.S. and the Philippines reaffirmed theirshared obligations for mutual defense and stressed the need “to maintain arobust, balanced, and responsive security partnership including cooperating toenhance the defense, interdiction, and apprehension capabilities” of thePhilippine military.3 More importantly, both countries declared the followingimportant points:  Their determination to continue “their bilateral cooperation in addressing broader regional and global challenges, including maritime security and threats to security such as climate change, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and transnational crime.” They also expressed their commitment to continue their “close and effective cooperation to counter al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups in the Southern Philippines”;  The sharing of their common interest in “maintaining freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce, and transit of people across the seas and subscribe to a rules-based approach in resolving competing claims in maritime areas through peaceful, collaborative, multilateral, and diplomatic processes within the framework of international law;” and,  Their commitment to advance their “nations’ mutual security interests through continuing a high-level strategic dialogue.” They also committed to support “increasing regional cooperation in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM+), the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and the East Asia Summit (EAS).”                                                                                                                2 See Manila Declaration on U.S.-Philippines Alliance, 16 November 2011.3 Ibid.   2  
    • In other words, the Manila Declaration of 2011 not only renewed U.S.-Philippinessecurity alliance. It also stressed the need to raise the level of their alliance to ahigher plane. The Manila Declaration identified broader goals in order to makethis alliance more relevant and more mutually beneficial. To implement theManila Declaration, the two allies even instituted the holding of BilateralStrategic Dialogues in order to provide opportunities for both countries “toconsult and exchange views on a broad range of bilateral, regional, and globalissues” reflecting their “common values and interests”.4The U.S. and the Philippines, therefore, commit to stick together as importantallies in 21st century. The recently concluded 2-plus-2 meeting reiterated thatpoint.There is no doubt that this alliance plays an important role in U.S. pivot to Asia.Through the MDT of 1951, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) of 1999 and theMutual Logistic Support Agreement (MLSA) of 2007, American military presencein the Philippines is justified. Both countries have even agreed to enhanceAmerican military presence in the country to address current threats and toprevent emerging security challenges to escalate into actual military problems.To indicate continuing American military presence in the Philippines, at least600 American troops belonging to the Joint Special Operations Task Force-­‐Philippines (JSOTFP) are currently deployed in Mindanao on rotational basis.Originally established in 2002 as part of the Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines (OEF-P), the JSOTFP has been providing humanitarian, technicaland logistical assistance and training to the AFP in the fight against terrorism andother threats to the country’s internal security. Since 2000, American andFilipino troops have been conducting combined and joint military exercises inPhilippine territories.Just last 27 April 2012, the U.S. and the Philippines finished their 12-dayBalikatan exercises. This was the 28th Balikatan Exercise conducted by bothcountries. It is the largest military exercise involving at least 6,000 Americanand Filipino troops. Compared with past Balikatan exercises, this year’s eventwas a milestone as it involved other American allies from Australia Japan, andSouth Korea as well as partners from Indonesia and Malaysia.The U.S. is indeed pivoting to Asia. The Philippines plays a significant part in it.For the Philippines, it is not difficult to embrace American pivot strategy havingbeen a long-standing security ally. Armed forces of both countries fought togetherduring the Second World War (1945), the Korean War (1950-1953), Vietnam War(1964-973), the Persian Gulf War (1991), and the Global War on Terror (2001-                                                                                                                4The First Bilateral Strategic Dialogue was held in Manila in November 2011. The SecondBilateral Strategic Dialogue was held in Washington DC in January 2012. The holding of 2-plus-2meeting this April 2012 is considered to be a continuation of their strategic dialogues.   3  
    • 2011). They fought common wars through the years to defend democracy,promote rule of law and pursue free trade.Their shared history and common values in liberal democracy, rule of law andfree market make the Philippines an integral part of US pivot strategy towardsAsia. The bilateral security relationship between the U.S. and the Philippineshas, in fact, “gained prominence as a key link in the evolving U.S. foreign policy‘pivot’ or ‘rebalancing’ toward Asia.”5 U.S. Alliance with the Philippines – weavedtogether with Australia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand – makes theU.S. presence really felt in Asia and the Pacific. President Barrack Obama’sstrategy of U.S. pivot to Asia is, therefore, just a reassertion of American presenceand leadership in this very dynamic region.As an American ally, the Philippines finds U.S. pivot to Asia strategy as essentialto ameliorate its growing security dilemma. The ongoing standoff between Chinaand the Philippines in the Scarborough Shoal makes the U.S. pivot to Asia all themore significant for the Philippines. The Philippines expects the U.S. to provideassistance in preventing China to behave “aggressively” and in convincing Chinato accept rules-based approach in managing maritime and territorial disputes inthe South China Sea.U.S. Pivot to Asia strategy is also important to the Philippines in terms offocusing more attention to the domestic needs of its allies. The Philippines needsmore U.S. assistance in building national capacity to deal with internal securitythreats emanating from remaining members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG),operatives of Jemaah Islamiya (JI) hiding in Mindanao, lawless personalitiesassociated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), rouge members of theMoro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Muslim-convert cohorts of the RajahSolaiman Islamic Movement (RSIM), and even combatants of the New People’sArmy (NPA).The Philippines also expects the U.S. to provide assistance in building nationalcapacity to address non-traditional security threats such as natural disasters,environmental degradation, maritime piracy and smuggling of arms, drugs andhumans. But more importantly, the Philippines expects the U.S. to assist thecountry on how to respond to a more assertive China, particularly in the contextof the renewed security tensions in the South China Sea.In other words, the Philippines expects the U.S. to help the country build itsnational capacity to meet the objectives of Philippine National Security Policycovering the presidential term 2011-2016.The U.S. is now rebalancing its global posture and presence after fulfilling itscommitment in Iraq and Afghanistan. In its objective to strengthen its presence                                                                                                                5Thomas Lum, The Republic of the Philippines and U.S. Interests (Washington DC:Congressional Research Service, 5 April 2012).   4  
    • in the Asia Pacific by increasing “the institutional weight”, “power projection”,and “deterrence capacity” of U.S. armed forces in the region, the Philippines iswilling to serve as a key strategic hub, if not spoke, for this purpose. The 2-plus-2meeting of both countries’ defense and foreign affairs officials in Washington DCthis week further operationalized how the Philippine can fit into the U.S. pivotstrategy toward Asia.U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed in an article in Foreign Policy that“the future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and theUnited States will be right at the centre of the action”. The invigorated U.S.-Philippine alliance can presently facilitate the U.S to pivot effectively to Asia as itprepares to meet this future.In conclusion, allow me to share further the result of the 2-plus-2 meeting inWashington DC just concluded on 30 April 2012. In the Joint Statement signedafter the meeting, both countries recognize that “The U.S.-Philippines alliance isstronger than ever, reflecting the deep and abiding ties linking our two nationsand forged through a history of shared sacrifice and common purpose.”6 Theyalso acknowledge that “Americans and Filipinos are inextricably bound bycommon values and shared aspirations, including a commitment to democracyand the rule of law, building a robust economic partnership, and deepeningpeople-to-people ties.” Having said this, the U.S. and the Philippines stress thattheir alliance “remains an anchor for peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.”                                                                                                                6Joint Statement of the United States-Philippines Ministerial Dialogue (30 April 2012).     5