Philippines china security_relations_current_issues_emerging_concerns_by_rommel_banlaoi-libre
Current Issues and Emerging Concerns
Rommel C. Banlaoi
Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR)
Philippines-China Security Relations: Current Issues and Emerging Concerns
By Rommel C. Banlaoi
by Rommel C. Banlaoi
All rights reserved.
Except for brief quotations for scholarly purposes, no part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recordings and/or otherwise without the prior
written permission of the author. You may reach the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR)
Quezon City, Philippines
Recommended Bibliographic Entry:
Rommel C. Banlaoi, Philippines-China Security Relations: Current Issues and
Emerging Concerns (Quezon City: Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and
Terrorism Research, 2012).
Since the publication of my book, Security Aspects of Philippines-China
Relations: Bilateral Issues and Concerns in the Age of Global Terrorism, in 2007, my
scholarly activities on the Philippines’ difficult security relations with China have
not stopped. In fact, my book made my scholarly activities on Philippines-China
security relations became busier and more challenging, particularly when I was
elected one of the members of Governing Board of Philippines Association for
China Studies (PACS) in 2010. Within a period of five years from 2007 to 2011, I
felt the need of revising and updating my book to accommodate the
developments that transpired during that period.
Because of some technical issues associated with the revision of my 2007
book published by Rex Book Store International, I decided to just publish
another book based on conference papers and opinion pieces I wrote from 2007
to 2011. This effort resulted in the publication of this book, Philippines-China
Security Relations: Current Issues and Emerging Concerns.
Like my 2007 book, this present book examines the security aspects of
Philippines-China relations. My 2007 book discussed how the global campaign
against terrorism provided various opportunities for both countries to sustain
their diplomatic friendship and enhance their defense cooperation. The
publication of that book coincided with the 32nd
anniversary of the establishment
of Philippines-China relations. Two years before that, the Philippines and China
celebrated the “golden years” of their bilateral ties in 2005 on the occasion of
anniversary. But the renewed security tensions in the South China Sea
that started in 2007 created another difficulties for Philippines-China security
relations to move forward.
This present book is published to describe current and emerging
challenges in Philippines-China security relations. It is based on selected papers
and essays I wrote from 2007 to 2011 analyzing the security aspects of
Philippines-China relations. This book is also published this year to
commemorate the 37th
anniversary of the establishment of Philippines-China
relations. Readers can consider the publication of this present book as a sequel
to my 2007 book. It is my fervent hope to see this book adding value to the
existing literature on Philippines-China security relations.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. International Relations Theory in China:
Evolution and Current State ……………………………………. 6
2. A Philippine Perspective on China-US-ASEAN Relations….. 14
3. Philippine Policy in the South China Sea:
Implications for Philippines-China Security Relations………... 22
4. The Taiwan Factor in Philippines-China Security Relations….. 33
5. Philippine Foreign and Security Policy Towards China
in the Post-9/11 World: Current Realities and…………………. 41
6. Renewed Tensions and Continuing Maritime
Security Dilemma in the South China Sea:
Current and Emerging Concerns on
Philippines-China Security Relations……………………. 53
• Brief Essays on Philippines-China Security Relations
and the South China Sea Disputes 73
A. West Philippines Sea: What’s in a Name?............................... 73
B. West Philippines Sea: An American Lake?............................ 75
C. PH Problematic Protest vs China Over Spratlys…………… 77
D. A Mischief Reef in the Making………………………………. 79
E. Anarchy in the South China Sea ……………………………. 81
F. Emerging Cold War in the Spratlys………………………… 83
G. Risks of War in the Spratlys…………………………………. 85
H. Clash of Sovereignties in the Spratlys……………………… 87
I. Word War in the South China Sea: A Diplomatic Crisis
In Philippines-China Relations…………………………….... 90
J. PHL, China Row on Spratlys: Time for Good Manners
and Right Conduct………………………….………………….. 93
K. What’s Needed: More Dialogues
Among Spratly Claimants…………………………………… 95
L. Peace and Stability: Way Ahead in the Spratlys …………… 97
• List of Bilateral Agreements Between the Philippines and China 100
About the Author 111
International Relations Theory in China:
Evolution and Current State
In the context of China’s rise as a global power, it is imperative to study
the current state of International Relations (IR) theory in China. This can give the
whole world a sense on how China views itself in the global community.
Understanding how it grapples with international relations at the theoretical
level is also essential to grasp the state of IR scholarship in China, particularly at
this juncture where China now plays a very pivotal role in shaping the current
trends and future directions of international relations.
This chapter aims to examine the development and current state of IR
theory in China in the context of its rapid rise as a global power. This chapter
also intends to describe the implications of the whole gamut of this issue for
analyzing Philippines-China security relations.
Development of IR Theory in China
Though China is proud of its more than 3,000 years of civilization, IR as a
field of study in China came much later than in the West.1
But it is interesting to note that as early as 1926, a book on China’s
international relations was already published by a foreign observer in Shanghai.2
In 1955, the People’s University of China established the Foreign Affairs College,
which in 2005 became the Foreign Affairs University. It is the only university in
China affiliated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.3
The China Foreign Affairs
University (CFAU) offers not only foreign language courses but also courses in
international relations, diplomacy, international economics and business,
international law, and foreign policy. It offers bachelors, masters and doctorate
degrees in International Relations, International Politics, Diplomacy,
International Economy, English Language and Literature, Foreign Linguistics
and Applied Linguistics, etc.4
Since it was established, the CFAU has published
numerous textbooks such as History of Contemporary International Relations,
History of Modern Diplomacy of China, Diplomatic Documentation, Deng Xiaoping’s
Art of Diplomacy, An Introduction to Diplomacy, China and the USA, China’s
Diplomacy: A New Presentation, US China Policy and the Issue of Taiwan, Studies of
Legal Issues on Multimodal Transportation of International Goods, Fourteen Lessons on
Song Xinning, “Building International Relations Theory with Chinese Characteristics”, Journal of
Contemporary China, Vol. 10, No. 26 (2001), p. 61.
Harley Farnsworth MacNair, China's International Relations & Other Essays (Shanghai:
Commercial Press, 1926).
See website of China Foreign Affairs University at http://www.cfau.edu.cn/.
Communication, and Economic Diplomacy.5
The CFAU also has the Institute of
International Relations, which shall focus on building an IR theory “with Chinese
The 1960s saw the establishment of international relations department in
key universities in China aside from the People’s University. In 1963, for
example, Peking University and Fudan University set up their own Department
of International Politics. During the same period, ten research institutes on
international relations were built under the control and supervision of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the New China News Agency.6
institutes published textbooks and journals on international relations and some
even translated the works of Western international relations theorists like
Nicholas Spykman, Henry Kissinger, George Kennan and Herman Kahn, among
The People’s Press and the World Affairs Press have a long-standing
reputation of publishing IR-related books in China. However, no IR theory was
really taught in China in the 1960s up to the 1970s because of the height of the
Cold War. During the prime of ideological propaganda of the Cold War, IR
studies in China were just interpretations of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and
Stalinism. University IR courses were offered “just to explain Marxist theories of
imperialism colonialism, national liberation movements, and war and peace.”8
It was only in the 1980s when China started to think about IR theoretically
with primordial objective of highlighting Chinese characteristics. The landmark
event was the holding in 1985 of a conference of the China Society of the History
of International Relations, which led to the publication of a book entitled Essays
on the History of International Relations. Thereafter, Chinese universities began to
offer IR subjects, which consequently encouraged schools to publish IR textbooks
annotated by Gerald Chan.9
Though the 1989 Tiananmen Square Incident
posed a challenge to IR theory-building in China because of the negative
international image it constructed about China as a result of what the Chinese
government called “Western propaganda”, theoretical studies on IR continued to
The development of IR theory in China can not be fully understood
without a deep understanding of the evolution of IR studies in the country. The
major milestone in the growth of IR studies in China was in 1979 when Chairman
Deng Xiaoping enunciated the policy of great opening of People’s Republic of
China (PRC) to the whole world. It is therefore not a big surprise why IR theory-
building in China only began in the 1980s as a result of the opening policy of
Chairman Deng. The end of the cold war in 1989 accelerated the process of IR
theory-building with the rise of enthusiasm of younger and smarter students
specializing in international studies. Professor Wang Jisi of the Institute of
Xinning, “Building International Relations Theory with Chinese Characteristics”, p. 62.
Ibid., p. 63.
Gerald Chan, International Studies in China: An Annotated Bibliography (New York: Nova Science
American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences divided the
evolution of IR studies in China in the post-cold war era into three periods:10
First Period (1989-1991). This is characterized by the security uncertainties
unleashed by the end of the cold war and the international ramifications of the
Tiananmen Incident. The period also saw the rapid economic growth of Japan
and the phenomenal economic integration of Western Europe. Having these
events as a backdrop, Chinese scholars found it difficult to engage in IR
theorizing as most of them are preoccupied observing current and emerging
international events. But their enthusiasm on IR theories never waned as seen
through the translations of the works of well-known IR theorists like Kenneth
Waltz, Stanley Hoffman, Robert Gilpin and Joseph Nye, Jr.11
Second Period (1992-1998). Wang Jisi describes this period as the start of
“fascinating growth of IR scholarship in China”, which coincided with the
serious promotion by the Chinese government of cordial and friendly relations
with key countries in the Asia Pacific and Africa.12
Though Asia was disturbed
by the harsh impact of the 1997 Asian financial crisis aggravated by Taiwan’s
growing pro-independence sentiments, IR studies in China “became
increasingly consolidated, diversified and pluralized.”13
This led to intense
scholarly discussions on various IR topics like peace and development,
multipolarization, economic globalization, strategic partnership, international
cooperation, international political economy, security outlook, human rights and
international intervention, the clash of civilizations, democratic peace, and
comprehensive national strength.14
Third Period (1999 – present). The third period describes the current state
of IR studies in China where scholars discovered new areas in IR unfamiliar to
them. According to Wang Jisi, the Kosovo War in 1999 and the US spy plane-
Chinese jet air collision in 2001 further increased the enthusiasm of Chinese
scholars on other IR issues not seriously discussed before. These issues are
ethnic relations and tensions, the impact of religion on world politics,
comparative party politics, crisis management, domestic sources of foreign
policy, human rights diplomacy, the role of the media in IR, mutual images and
perceptions between nations, and other topic like good governance, non-
governmental organizations, new peoples’ organizations and civil society.15
Though Wang Jisi claims that Chinese scholars have a tradition of
attaching great importance to IR theories, he underscores that IR theorizing in
China is different from IR theorizing in the West in terms of content, discourse
and approach. Thus, Chinese scholars attempted to develop IR theories with
Wang Jisi, “International Relations Studies in China Today: Achievements, Trends and
Conditions” (A Report to the Ford Foundation) at
Ibid, p. 5.
Ibid., p. 6.
Ibid., p. 7.
Ibid., pp. 8-9.
“Chinese characteristics.” Professor Liang Shoude of Peking University was the
leading IR scholar in China who argued for the development of IR theory with
Chinese characteristics to challenge other IR theories that were constructed and
developed to “serve the Western countries.” As mentioned previously, Professor
Song Xinning, a Professor of International Relations at the Renmin University of
China (also known as the People’s University of China), also advanced the idea
of building an IR theory with Chinese characteristics. Professor Yiwei Wang of
Fudan University even stressed the end of IR theories of the West and the rise of
Yiwei Wang summarized his arguments in the following
International Relations (IR) is both a science and an art: The unity
of object and subject. Traditional International Relations Theories
(IRT) have probed the laws of IR, in an attempt to become the
universal science. IRT have developed into a class doctrine that
defends the legitimacy of Western International System as a result
of proceeding from the reality of IR while neglecting its evolving
process, and overlooking the meaning of art and the presence of
multi-international systems. In other words, IRT have turned into
what Karl Marx might have deemed as the Vulgar International
Relations Theories (VIRT). For this reason, we call the end of
international relations theories. This phenomenon will be negated
by the so-called Chinese School, which will set the sustainable and
harmonious relations among nations, between state and non-state
actors, and within states and non-state actors (in one word “global-
society”) in five life-forces of economy, politics, military, culture
and religion. Consequently, this will bring about a real regression
of nationality and compatible development of various international
Current State of IR Theory in China
According to Song Xinning, there are three major groups of IR scholars in
China: a) Researchers in institutes under various government agencies, which
focus more on policy-oriented studies to justify government policies and to
provide policy reports to the government; b) University professors and
researchers who concentrate more on theoretical and general IR studies; and, c)
Researchers in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing and various
academies of social sciences at the provincial level, which conduct both activities
of the first two groups.
Despite the efforts of these three groups, Xinning laments that IR theory in
China remains backward compared to IR theory-building in North America and
Europe. He, however, expresses hope for progress because of increasing
interests in IR theory in China both by Chinese and foreign scholars. Since the
Yiwei Wang, “The End of International Relations Theory and the Rise of Chinese School” at
1980s, IR as a field of scientific inquiry has grown dramatically amidst
ideological constraints and political inhibitions.18
The 1990s saw the publications
in China some excellent books on IR theory. In 1998, Wang Yizhou published a
book, The Discipline of International Politics in the West: History and Theory19
Zi Zhongyun published the Explorations of Theories of International Politics in
In 1999, Lu Yi, Gu Guanfu, Yu Zhengliang, and Fu Yaozu edited a
volume entitled Research on International Relations Theories in China’s New Era.21
These publications strongly demonstrate that intense discussions on IR theory
have been taking place in China. Professor Alastair Ian Johnson of Harvard
University observes that Chinese IRT has gone through three stages or three
styles of IR theorizing in China: traditional stage, realist stage and social
Traditional stage or style, which became predominant in the 1960s and
1970s, views theory not as an explanatory devise but more of a guiding
philosophy. As a guiding philosophy, therefore, “it was politically important to
get this ‘theory’ right.”23
It means that “the correctness of theory rested in its
consistency with the political interests of the state as defined by the CCP. Theory
was both positivist in the sense that it rested on understanding objective laws of
historical development (the legacy of historical materialism in PRC scholarship),
but it was also normative in the sense that what was often cast as an objective
process was, in fact, desired by China’s leaders.”24
The realist stage or style, which became popular in the 1980s and early
1990s, saw some Chinese scholars abandoning the traditional style of IR
theorizing with the waning of ideological influence Marxism. During this stage,
some Chinese scholars, particularly those younger ones, were attracted to realist
school advanced by Hans Morgenthau and Henry Kissinger. These younger IR
Chinese scholars expressed their dissatisfaction to the idea of an IR theory with
Chinese characteristics arguing that this idea is “backward” and it isolates
Chinese scholars away from Western IR discourses.25
But this theoretical debate
among Chinese scholars has positive effect in terms of acquiring a “higher level
of awareness of the meta-theoretical issues behind social sciences, and the need
to think more systematically about ontology what is researchable) and
epistemology (how to research it).”26
Yongjin Zhang, “International Relations Theory in China Today: The State of the Field”, The
China Journal, No. 47 (January 2002), p. 101.
Wang Yizhou, The Discipline of International Politics in the West: History and Theory (Shanghai:
Shanghai Renmin Chubanshe, 1998).
Zi Zhongyun, Explorations of Theories of International Politics in China (Shanghai: Shanghai
Renmin Chubanshe, 1998).
Lu Yi, Gu Guanfu, Yu Zhengliang, and Fu Yaozu (eds), Research on International Relations
Theories in China’s New Era (Beijing: Shishi Chubanshe, 1999).
Alastair Ian Johnson, “The State of International Relations Research in China” (2002) at
Ibid., p. 33.
Ibid., p. 34.
The social scientific stage refers to events of the mid 1990s when some
Chinese scholars became more conscious about “understanding and situating
Chinese research in relationship to US and Western IR theory.”27
There are three
major sources of this “turn to theory”. The first source was a group of Chinese
scholars who returned to China after acquiring IR education in the US and
Western Europe. These returning Chinese scholars who were required to teach
IR in China “brought with them specific training in theory and methods which
they passed on to their students.”28
The second source was the translation into
Chinese major classic IR works of Western theorists like Robert Gilpin, Kenneth
Waltz, Peter Katzenstein, Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye. The third source
was the entrepreneurship of a key group of younger IR scholars in Beijing and
Shanghai who took over the editing of IR journals and book series.29
According to Johnson, though there is the current growth of IR theory
consciousness in China, explicit theorizing is still relatively new in the PRC. In
fact, in IR studies in China, there are more discussions on current international
events than on IR theory.
Is There an IR Theory With Chinese Characteristics?
Though at present there is an increasing interest on IR theory in China,
which encourages other scholars to develop an IR theory with Chinese
characteristics, the state of IR theory in China remains nascent or embryonic.
Even in the more specific area of foreign policy, the use scientific theory and
method is still very new.30
William A. Callahan also expresses doubts about the
existence of IR theory with Chinese characteristics.31
Professor Qin Yaqing even
contends that China is yet to develop a Chinese IRT. He identifies three factors
why there has been no Chinese IRT, to wit:
There is not yet a Chinese international relations theory (IRT)
mainly due to three factors: the unconsciousness of ‘international-
ness’ in the traditional Chinese worldview, the dominance of the
Western IR discourse in the Chinese academic community, and the
absence of a consistent theoretical core in the Chinese IR research.
A Chinese IRT is likely and even inevitable to emerge along with
the great economic and social transformation that China has been
experiencing and by exploring the essence of the Chinese
intellectual tradition. The Tianxia worldview and the Tributary
System in the two millennia of China's history, the radical thinking
Ibid., p. 35.
Alastair Ian Johnson, “Trends in Theory and Method in the Study of Chinese Foreign Policy”
(Paper prepared for the conference on China Studies on the occasion of the 50 th Anniversary of
the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, December 2005).
William A. Callahan, “China and the Globalization of IR Theory: Discussion of Building
International Relations Theory with Chinese Characteristics”, Journal of Contemporary China, vol.
10, no. 26 (2001), pp. 75-88.
and revolutions in the nineteenth and twentieth century, and
reform and opening-up since 1978 are the three milestones of
China's ideational and practical development and therefore could
provide rich nutrition for a Chinese IRT. In addition, a Chinese IRT
is likely to develop around the core problematic of China's identity
vis-à-vis international society, a century-long puzzle for the
Chinese and the world alike.32
One of the major reasons why IR theory remains undeveloped in China is
that there is no fully developed IR research institutions in the PRC that are
academically independent from state institutions.33
Most IR research institutions
in China are regulated by the government whose principal interests are not in
theories but in strategies and tactics. IR-related research works and studies are
heavily influenced by the state’s demand to justify its present political ideology
and to strengthen its current foreign policy. According to Gustaaf Geeraerts and
Men Jing, “if social scientists pay too much attention to what the government
requires, they will not be scientists but rather aides and staff to government
This argument is reinforced by Wang Jisi who underscores that
without academic independence in the field of IR, there can be no scientific
IR theories developed by Western scholars will continue to be used by
Chinese counterparts to analyze PRC foreign policy strategy and its place in the
Even China’s security practice will still be analyzed
within the prism of Western theories.37
But with the rise of China as global
superpower, some scholars have argued that China can pose a challenge to
existing international relations theory.38
Summary and Conclusion
Though China can be proud of its 3,000 years of civilization with excellent
statecraft on foreign relations, IR theory remains undeveloped in China. It was
only in the 1950s when serious academic interests on IR began in China. IR as a
field of study in China became more popular in 1979 during its economic
opening. The end of the cold further accelerated the interests of Chinese scholars
Qin Yaqing, “Why is there no Chinese International Relations Theory?” at
Gustaaf Geeraerts and Men Jing, “International Relations Theory in China”, Global Society, vol.
15, no. 3 (2001).
Wang Jisi, ``International Relations Theory and the Study of Chinese Foreign Policy: A Chinese
Perspective’’ , in Thomas W. Robinson and David Shambaugh (eds.), Chinese Foreign Policy:
Theory and Practice (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), p. 57.
See for example Avery Goldstein, “An Emerging China’s Emerging Grand Strategy: A Neo-
Bismarcchian Turn?” in G. John Ikenberry and Michael Mastanduno (eds), International Relations
Theory and the Asia Pacific (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), pp. 57-106.
See Wu Xinbo, “China: Security Practice of a Modernizing and Ascending Power” in Muthiah
Alagappa (ed), Asian Security Practice: Material and Ideational Influences (Standord, California:
Standford University Press, 1998), pp. 115-156.
Jeremy Paltiel, “The Rise of China as a Challenge to International Relations Theory” (Paper
presented at the international conference of the International Studies Association, Honolulu,
Hawai, March 2005).
on IR studies. Yet, IR theorizing continues to be nascent in China because of
limited academic independence of IR research institutions. The Chinese
government is more interested in strategy development and foreign policy-
making rather than on theory-building. Without greater academic independence
in the field of IR, Chinese scholars will find it difficult develop its own IR theory.
A Philippine Perspective on China-US-ASEAN Relations
To maintain regional stability and promote regional security, the
Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) has been constructively
engaging all major powers in the Asia Pacific. This is manifested in ASEAN’s
dynamic dialogue partnership with Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan,
Russia, and the United States. ASEAN also has dialogue partnerships with the
Republic of Korea, Pakistan and some regional and international organizations.
Among its dialogue partnerships, ASEAN relations with China and the
US are considered to be the most challenging ones because of the prevailing
perception that the security of the Asia Pacific region, as well as of Southeast
Asia, rests enormously upon the status of China-US relations.39
The two major
powers are also seriously competing for influence in Southeast Asia,40
test the ability of ASEAN to deal with the rising dragon and the American
Being a founder member of ASEAN, the Philippines also confronts the
formidable challenge on how to engage the rising China without creating
unnecessary discomforts with its American security ally.
This chapter presents a Philippine perspective of China-US-ASEAN
relations in the post-9/11 world. It starts with a discussion of the background of
China-US-ASEAN relations during the cold war followed by an analysis on the
status of these trilateral relations after 9/11. It then examines the implications of
China-US-ASEAN relations for Philippine foreign and security policy towards
Background on China-US-ASEAN Relations
Since its establishment in 1967, ASEAN foreign policy has always been
influenced by the behaviors of major powers.42
Southeast Asia even became the
fulcrum of major power rivalries in the Asia Pacific. During the cold war, the
founding members ASEAN sided with the Western powers to contain the spread
of communism in the region.
Evelyn Goh, “In Search of Suitable Positions in the Asia Pacific: Negotiating the US-China
Relationship and Regional Security”, IDSS Working Paper Series, no. 51 (September 2003), p. 1.
Kathryn L. Gauthier, "China as Peer Competitor? Trends in Nuclear Weapons, Space, and
Information Warfare," Air War College Maxwell Paper No. 18 (July 1999).
Quincy Crosby, The Eagle and the Dragon: China’s Economic Ascent (New Jersey: John Wiley and
Sons, Inc., 2008). For historical background of the relations, see Don Lawson, The Eagle and the
Dragon: The History of U.S.-China Relations (California: Crowell, 1985).
N. Ganesean, “ASEAN’s Relations with Major External Powers”, Contemporary Southeast Asia,
vol. 22, no. 2 (August 2000), p. 258.
Among the Western powers, the US became the most important partner of
ASEAN in preventing communist expansionism in Southeast Asia. In fact,
"support for and cooperation with ASEAN is a linchpin of American Pacific
Policy" during the cold war in order to protect ASEAN states from falling to
The US also entered into military alliance with Thailand and
the Philippines to support American regional security strategy in Southeast Asia.
The US even attempted to form a NATO-type security organization in Southeast
Asia in 1955 through the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO). But
SEATO met its untimely demise when it was dissolved in 1977. Nonetheless, the
US remained committed to the security in Southeast Asia through its existing
military alliance with Thailand and the Philippines.
During the cold war period, ASEAN viewed China as an ideological
Beijing’s support to the communist insurgency movements in Southeast
Asia created a negative feeling and hostility towards China among the non-
communist Southeast Asian states.45
In fact, none of ASEAN founding members
had normal relations with China in the 1960s.46
ASEAN-China security relations
only improved in the late 1970s when Southeast Asian countries normalized their
relations with the People’s Republic of China (PROC). China’s security relations
with ASEAN improved further in the 1980s when Beijing rallied behind ASEAN
in opposing Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia.47
With the end of the cold war, the ideological conflict among the major
powers subsided. But the interests of major powers on ASEAN persisted, even
as they re-defined their interests in the region. ASEAN, on the other hand,
deliberately pursued a post-cold war strategy of engaging all major powers
though bilateral and multilateral means. A scholar called this strategy “omni-
enmeshment” strategy, which refers to the process of engaging with an actor or
entity so as to draw it into deep involvement into a system or community,
enveloping it in a web of sustained exchanges and relationships, with the
eventual aim of integration.”48
Meanwhile, the post-cold war period increased tensions between the US
and China. With the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, the US was freed
of a former archrival. American attention was then focused on China considered
by many Western security analysts as posing a great threat to the security of the
Kenneth J. Convoy, “Challenges to the US-ASEAN Quasi-Alliance”, The Heritage Foundation
Asian Studies Backgrounder, no. 60 (21 April 1987).
For an excellent historical background of China-ASEAN relations, see Leo Suryadinata, China
and the Southeast Asian States (Singapore: National University of Singapore, 1985).
Amitav Acharya, “Seeking Security in the Dragon’s Shadow: China and Southeast Asia in the
Emerging Asian Order”, IDSS Working Paper Series, no. 44 (March 2003), p. 3.
Alice D. Ba, “China and ASEAN: Renavigating Relations for a 21st
Century Asia”, Asian Survey,
vol. 43, no. 4 (2003), p. 624.
Evelyn Goh, “Great Powers and Southeast Asian Regional Security Strategies: Omni-
Enmeshment, Balancing and Hierarchical Order,” IDSS Working Paper Series, no. 84 (July 2005), p.
Though China resists this kind of perception, the Tiananmen Incident in
1989 created a negative image of China in world affairs. American security
analysts have viewed China to be the “great American foreign policy problem in
and a “potential peer competitor to the U.S. in world affairs.”51
News reports and experts’ analysis demonizing China have dominated Western
literature after 1989. The EP-3 incident in April 2001 exacerbated the negative
view about China.
This “aura of tragedy” surrounding US-China security relations in the
post-cold war era resonated strongly in ASEAN.52
Though ASEAN carried an
ambivalent view of China after the cold war and was aware of American
preeminent power in the Asia Pacific, the fragile China-US security relations was
a source of security concern in Southeast Asia.53
China’s assertive attitude in the South China Sea since the 1990s has left a
negative legacy in China-ASEAN relations. But China recovered from this
negative image when it played a constructive role during the 1997 Asian
financial crisis. Since then, China’s image in ASEAN dramatically improved
while American image deteriorated since it left Clark and Subic in 1992.54
China’s negative image in Southeast Asia resurfaced in 2011 when PRC
displayed anew its assertive attitude in the South China Sea.
Though the US continued to be the most important security partner of
ASEAN (particularly to the founding members), China’s effective “charm
of Southeast Asia marked by American “neglect” of the region in the
late 1990s, made ASEAN relations with US and China tilting in favor of the
It was even argued that US relations with ASEAN became
problematique in the 1990s because “ASEAN’s interests and concerns have never
been a major consideration in the formulation of US policy towards Asia-Pacific
See Bill Gerts, The China Threat (Washington DC: Regnery, 2000). Also see Herbert Yee and Ian
Storey (eds), The China Threat: Perceptions, Myths and Reality (New York: RoutledgeCurzon,
Joseph Grieco, “China and American in a New World Polity” Carolyn W. Pumphrey (ed) The
Rise of China in Asia: Security Implications (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2002) P. 21.
Marvin C. Ott, “Southeast Asia and the United States: Policy Without Strategy”, PACNET
Newsletter, No. 21 (28 May 199). Also at <ttp://www/csis.org/pacfor/pac2199.html>.
Denny Roy, ‘Rising China and U.S. Interests: Inevitable vs. Contingent Hazards’, Orbis Vol. 47,
No. 1 , 2003, p. 137.
Harry Harding, A Fragile Relationship, (Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1992).
“U.S. Influence in Asia Under Bush Waning,” Agence France Presse, (29 August 2004).
Kurlantzick, “China’s Charm Offensive in Southeast Asia,” Current History, September 2006.
Rizal Sukma, “US-Southeast Asia Relations After the Crisis: The Security Dimension”
(Background Paper Prepared for The Asia Foundation’s Workshop on America’s Role in Asia
Bangkok, 22-24 March 2000).
China-US-ASEAN Relations after 9/11
The 9/11 event served as a significant milestone in China-US-ASEAN
relations. After a decade of neglect, the US declared Southeast Asia as the
“second front” in the global war on terrorism. This occurred amidst China’s
strengthening relationship with ASEAN after 9/11.
While the US reinvigorated its security alliance with the Philippines,
strengthened military relations with Thailand, improved defense relations with
Indonesia and Malaysia and enhanced strategic partnership with Singapore in
the aftermath of 9/11 using its “hard power”, China also improved its bilateral
ties with Southeast Asian states and deepened its dialogue partnership with
ASEAN using its “soft power” diplomacy.58
China’s use of “soft power”
reinforced by a new policy of multilateralism created a benign image of Beijing in
On the other hand, American use of “hard power” aggravated by a
strategy of unilateralism isolated itself from Southeast Asian affairs.60
To assure ASEAN that China’s international behavior is peaceful and
constructive, it signed in 2002 the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the
South China Sea (DOC) and acceded in 2003 to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and
Cooperation (TAC). The US upholds its neutral position on the South China Sea
disputes and has not ratified the TAC. Though the war on terrorism in Southeast
Asia brought renewed US attention to ASEAN, Washington has failed to match
Beijing’s increasing influence in Southeast Asia. There is even a view that the US
was so preoccupied in Iraq and Afghanistan that it suffered a strategic neglect of
While China was so busy forging economic ties with ASEAN countries
using its soft power, the US was so busy, using its hard power, hunting for so-
called terrorist personalities in Southeast Asia associated with Al-Qaeda, Jemaah
Islamiyah (JI) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). There is no doubt that this shift
in China-ASEAN relations has affected not only American interests but also US
status in the region.61
The post-9/11 era was indeed a moment of China’s tactical gain in
ASEAN vis a vis the US.62
China’s soft power re-emergence in Southeast Asia
resulted in a dramatic change of ASEAN states attitude towards the PROC – they
Thomas Lum, Wayne M. Morrison, and Bruce Vaughn, “China’s Soft Power in Southeast Asia”,
CRS Report for Congress (4 January 2008). Also see Eric Teo Cheow, “China’s Rising Soft Power in
Southeast Asia,” Pac Net 19A, (3 May 2004).
Kuik Cheng-Chwee, “Multilateralism in China's ASEAN Policy: Its Evolution, Characteristics,
and Aspiration”, Contemporary Southeast Asia, vol. 27, No. 1 (April 2005), pp. 102-122.
Miller, Benjamin. "Hard Power and Soft Power: the Effects of 9/11 on US Hegemony in the
International System" (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science
Association, Marriott, Loews Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania Convention Center,
Philadelphia, PA, 2008).
Bruce Vaughn, “China-Southeast Asia Relations: Trends, Issues, and Implications for the
United States”, CRS Report for Congress (8 February 2005).
Mohan Malik, Dragon on Terrorism: Assessing China’s Tactical Gains and Strategic Losses Post
September 11 (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2002).
are now “less-biased, less anti-communist and less anti-Beijing.”63
On the other
hand, American strong assertiveness to use its hard power to achieve political
and strategic ends in the global war on terrorism has created dissent and anti-
Americanism in Southeast Asia.64
Though ASEAN needs American presence to
balance China’s growing influence in the region, it detests American
predominance. ASEAN also expressed disappointments that the US after 9/11
has become less consensual and more coercive.65
This is in stark contrast with
China, which has become more consultative, cooperative and socializing in the
aftermath of 9/11.66
Now, ASEAN no longer views China as a threat. Though
the rise of China poses security challenges in Southeast Asia, ASEAN now
regards Beijing as a partner in regional security.67
This new reality in China-US-
ASEAN relations has endangered American primacy in Southeast Asia.68
Implications for Philippine Foreign and Security
Policy Towards China in the Post-9/11 World
The growing China-ASEAN ties unleashed profound effects on Philippine
policy towards China. While 9/11 resulted in the reinvigoration of Philippine-
American security relations,69
it also led to the enhancement of Philippines-China
defense and military cooperation.70
Since the establishment of Philippines-
China diplomatic ties in 1975, both countries have gone a long way in their
relations. After 9/11, Philippines-China relations became comprehensive. In
2005, in fact, the Philippine and China celebrated the 30th
anniversary of the
establishment of Philippines-China diplomatic relations. According to Chinese
President Hu Jintao who visited the Philippines that year, the 30th
represented the “golden-age” of Philippines-China relations. That year was also
a landmark period in both countries’ bilateral relations as they launched the First
Johannes Dragsbaek Schmidt, “China’s "soft power" re-emergence in Southeast Asia” (Paper
presented at the inaugural international workshop ‘China World’ at Asia Research Centre,
Copenhagen Business School, on 10-11 March 2006), p. 38.
Mark Beeson, “Resisting hegemony: The sources and limits of anti-Americanism in Southeast
Asia” (Paper for the workshop on Globalization, Conflict and Political Regimes in East and Southeast
Asia, , Fremantle, WA, 15-16 August, 2003).
Ibid., p. 13.
Alice Ba, “Who's Socializing Whom? Complex Engagement in Sino-ASEAN Relations”, The
Pacific Review, vol. 19, no. 2, (June 2006), pp. 157-179.
Rommel C. Banlaoi, “Southeast Asian Perspectives on the Rise of China: Regional Security
After 9/11, Parameters, vol 33, no. 2 (Summer 2003), pp. 98-107.
Dana R. Dillon and John J. Tkacik, Jr.,”China and ASEAN: Endangered American Primacy in
Southeast Asia”, The Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder, no. 1886 (19 October 2005).,
Paolo Pasicolan, "Strengthening US-Philippine Alliance for Fighting Terrorism", Heritage
Foundation Executive Memorandum, no. 815 (13 May 2002). Also see Rommel C. Banlaoi, “The
Role of Philippine-American Relations in the Global Campaign Against Terrorism: Implications
for Regional Security”, Contemporary Southeast Asia, vol. 24, no. 2 (August 2002), pp. 294-312;
Renato Cruz de Castro, “The Revitalized Philippine-US Security Relations: A Ghost from the
Cold War or an Alliance for the 21st
Century”, Asian Survey, vol. 43, no. 6 (November/December
2003), pp. 971-988; and, Noel M. Morada, “Philippine-American Security Relations After 11
September: Exploring the Mutuality of Interests in the Fight Against International Terrorism”,
Southeast Asian Affairs (January 2003), pp. 228-238.
Rommel C. Banlaoi, Defense and Military Cooperation Between the Philippines and China: Broadening
Bilateral Ties in the Post-9/11 Era (Taipei: Center for the Advancement of Policy Studies, June 2007).
Philippines-China Defense and Security Dialogue in May 2005.71
even played the China card when Manila’s relations with Washington cooled off
in 2004 as a result of the withdrawal of Filipino troops in Iraq.72
analysts in Washington regretted the fact that China’s relations with the
Philippines improved amidst the crisis in Philippines-American relations, to wit:
China has developed and refined a policy of helping regimes in
trouble by offering considerable political and economic support.
This will become true for the Philippines, as China moves away
from threatening rhetoric on territorial disputes in the South China
Sea and employs a new approach. Beijing offered Manila $3 million
for the establishment of a Chinese language-training program for
the Philippine military, donated engineering equipment, and
invited the Philippines to participate in naval exercises. Moreover,
in the midst of stern U.S. criticism of the withdrawal of the
Philippine medical team from Iraq, President Arroyo signed a
confidential protocol with China on the exploitation of South China
Sea resources. With her presidency in dire straits, Arroyo will
gladly accept more largesse from Beijing.73
To understand the post-9/11 Philippine foreign and security policy
towards China, there is also a need to comprehend ASEAN policy in the post-
9/11 era. The improvement of China’s security relations with ASEAN provided
a conducive regional environment for the Philippines to also improve its foreign
and security policy towards China. ASEAN’ benign attitude towards China in
the post-9/11 era also created a benign attitude of the Philippines towards China,
even if Manila is known in ASEAN as Pentagon’s long-standing security ally in
Southeast Asia. In other words, China-US-ASEAN political and security
dynamics have greatly informed Philippine foreign and security policy towards
China in the post-9/11 world.
In the midst of the strategic uncertainty of the security environment in the
post-cold-war/ post-9/11 era, ASEAN faced the dilemma of balancing its
relations with China and the US. Rather than pursuing a balancing act in
traditional realist terms, ASEAN, instead, adopted a strategy of what scholars of
international relations called “soft-balancing”.74
This concept departs from the
idea of “hard balancing”, which requires the formation of military alliances.
This argument is based largely in Rommel C. Banlaoi, Security Aspects of Philippines-China
Relations: Bilateral Issues and Concerns in the Age of Global Terrorism (Quezon City: Rex Book Store
International, 2007), p. 1.
Mely Caballero Anthony, “Beyond the Iraq Hostage Crisis: Re-Assessing US-Philippines
Relations”, IDSS Commentaries (28 July 2004).
Dana Dillon, “Crisis in the Philippines: What does it mean for the U.S.?”, The Heritage
Foundation Web Memo, no. 799 (18 July 2005).
Yuen Foong Khong, Coping with Strategic Uncertainty: The Role of Institutions and Soft
Balancing in Southeast Asia’s Post-Cold War Strategy (Paper prepared for the IDSS-Harvard
Workshop on Southeast Asian International Relations and Security, March 15, 2004, Weatherhead
Center for International Affairs, Harvard University). Also in Chapter 5 of Allen Carlson, Peter
Katzenstein, and J.J. Suh (eds.) Rethinking Security in East Asia: Identity, Power, and Efficiency
(Stanford University Press, 9/2004).
According to the traditional realist conception of hard balancing, ASEAN should
side with the weak to balance the strong. However, “ASEAN did not act this
way; it rejected the strategy of balancing against the stronger power because it
saw the stronger power (the United States) as less of a threat than the weaker but
rising power (China or Japan).”75
There is also view of hard balancing, which
contends that states form or join military alliances to counter-check the rise of a
new power. 76
In the case of Asia, this new power may refer to China. But
instead of “hard balancing” China, ASEAN states were soft-balancing China by
welcoming American presence but at the same time engaging the new power.
One school of international relations calls this approach as “bandwagoning” that
is crouching under rather than containing the new power.77
Bandwagoning is a
form of acceptance of “a subordinate role to the dominant power in exchange for
material or ideational gain.”78
It is argued that instead of balancing, ASEAN is,
in fact, bandwagoning with China.79
There is a view, however, that balancing and bandwagoning “may not
fully account for the range of strategies state actors adopt in order to preserve
and promote their interests.”80
To accurately explain ASEAN relations with
China and the US, scholars of Southeast Asian security affairs adopted the
concept of “hedging strategy.” The hedging strategy is defined as “a
purposeful act in which a state seeks to insure its long term interests by placing
its policy bets on multiple counteracting options that are designed to offset risks
embedded in the international system.”81
In the context of China-ASEAN
relations, hedging has five components: economic-pragmatism, binding
engagement, limited-bandwagoning, dominance-denial and indirect-balancing.82
ASEAN strategy of hedging with China and the United States can also
explain Philippine foreign and security policy towards the two major powers.
Instead of strictly balancing or bandwagoning with the two powers, the
Philippines is hedging. Though the Philippines comprehensively engages China,
it also maintains its security alliance with the US. Like ASEAN, the Philippines
is relating with China and the US to get the best of both worlds. More of China
in the Philippines does not mean less of the United States. As rightly
underscored by then Philippine foreign affairs Secretary Teofisto Guingona, “In
Ibid., p. 18.
Stephen M. Walt, “Alliance Formation and the Balance of World Power,” International Security
vol. 9, no. 4 (Spring 1985), pp. 3-43.
Kuik Cheng-Chwee, Rising Dragon, Crouching Tigers? Comparing the Foreign Policy
Responses of Malaysia and Singapore Toward a Re-emerging China, 1990-2005, BiblioAsia, vol. 3,
no. 4 (January 2008), p. 4.
Denny Roy, “Southeast Asia and China: Balancing of Bandwagoning?”, Contemporary Southeast
Asia, vol. 27, no. 2, (August 2005), pp. 305-322.
Chong Ja Ian, “Revisiting Responses To Power Preponderance: Going Beyond The Balancing-
Bandwagoning Dichotomy”, IDSS Working Paper Series, no. 54 (November 2003), p. 1.
Kuik Cheng-Chwee, Rising Dragon, Crouching Tigers? Comparing the Foreign Policy
Responses of Malaysia and Singapore Toward a Re-emerging China, 1990-2005, op. cit.
our relations with an old friend, China, and with a perennial ally, the United
States, we Filipinos should be guided by one sure canon: national interests.”83
Summary and Conclusion
ASEAN has adopted a strategy of constructively engaging all major
powers in the Asia Pacific. Among the great powers, ASEAN relations with
China and the US are considered to be the most challenging.
During the cold war, ASEAN sided with US to contain the spread of
communism. ASEAN had animosity China at that time because of its support to
communist insurgency. After the cold war, however, China’s relations with
ASEAN dramatically improved. The US, on the other hand, strategically
neglected Southeast Asia. After 9/11, China-ASEAN relations improved further,
despite American declaration of Southeast Asia as its second front in the global
war on terrorism.
In the post-9/11 era, ASEAN adopted a hedging strategy towards China
and the US. Consistent with the ASEAN strategy, the Philippines also pursued a
foreign and security policy towards China and the US on the basis of hedging.
ASEAN’s hedging strategy informs Philippine foreign and security policy
Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. “Philippines-China-United States Relations: Foreign Policy Issues and
Economic Implications” (Lecture delivered during the 4th
FVR-RPDEV Lecture Series on 3 July
2002), p. 2.
Philippine Policy in the South China Sea:
Implications for Philippines-China Security Relations
In March 2008, the Philippines and China faced a serious controversy
concerning the implementation of Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) in
the South China Sea. The JMSU, signed in Manila on 14 March 2005, is a
tripartite agreement among the petroleum companies of China, the Philippines
and Vietnam that requires the three countries to conduct a joint marine seismic
exploration of the designated area in the Spratly Island. Both houses of the
Philippine Congress urged for an investigation of the deal to examine the
culpability of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for possible violation of the
Constitution, which is, under the Philippine law, is a grave offense that can lead
The JMSU raised many collateral issues that have bearing on Philippine
position in the South China Sea and on the status of Philippines-China security
relations. The controversy demonstrated that the South China Sea dispute
remains a lingering challenge in Philippines-China relations in the post-9/11
world. This challenge not only affects Philippines-China security relations but it
also has impact on regional security.
This chapter re-examines Philippine foreign and security policy on the
South China Sea in the light of the JMSU scandal. It describes the strategic
significance of the South China Sea in Philippine foreign and security policy and
analyzes its implications for Philippines-China security relations. The paper
concludes with a discussion on how to manage the dispute in the South China
through what many analysts call “cooperative management regime.”
The South China Sea in Philippine Foreign and Security Policy84
There is a huge avalanche of literature on the South China Sea, one of the
largest bodies of waters in the world after the five major oceans.85
Located in the
Pacific, it encompasses areas from the Malacca Strait to the Taiwan Strait
measuring around 3,500,000 km². The South China Sea is composed of four
major groups of islands, namely the Pratas Islands, the Paracel Islands,
This section is culled largely from Rommel C. Banlaoi, “Philippine Defense Policy Perspectives
on the South China Sea and the Rise of China” in his Security Aspects of Philippines-China Relations:
Bilateral Issues and Concerns in the Age of Global Terrorism (Quezon: Rex Book Store International,
2007), Chapter 5.
Examples are Mark J. Valencia, China and the South China Sea Disputes, Adelphi Paper No. 298
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); Daniel Dzurek, The Spratly Islands Disputes (Durham:
International Boundaries Research Uni, 1996).
Macclesfield Bank, and the Spratly Islands.86
Ownership of these islands has
been contested by several claimants for various reasons including among others
historic rights, discovery, effective occupation and sovereign jurisdiction
provided for by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the SEA
(UNCLOS). Because the South China Sea is a very strategic waterways
surrounded by rich marine resources as well as oil and gas potential, the area is
marred by international diplomatic disputes that, if not effectively managed, can
escalate into military conflicts.87
The South China Sea Dispute is therefore
creating a security anxiety for being one of the flashpoints of conflict in the Asia
Among these groups of islands, the most controversial is the Spratly
Islands having been claimed in whole by China and Taiwan and in part by
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Indonesia, though strictly not a
claimant state, is an important stakeholder to the on-going conflict in the Spratlys
because of its overlapping Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with other claimants,
particularly its Gas Field in Natuna Island being contested by China and Taiwan.
The Philippines is claiming some parts of the Spratlys that belong to what
it calls the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG). The KIG lies in the Western section of
the Spratlys. It is composed of 53 islands, islets, reefs, shoals, cays, rocks, and
atolls with an area of 64,976 square miles. The biggest island in the KIG is Pag-
asa (Hope), more internationally known as Thi Tu Island. The Philippines has
also occupied the following islands:
• Patag - Flat Island (Feixin Dao)
• Lawak -Nanshan Island (Mahuan Dao)
• Likas -West York Island (Xiyue Dao)
• Panata -Lankiam Cay (Shuanghuang Shazhou)
• Kota -Loaita Island (Nanyue Dao)
• Rizal Reef -Commodore Reef (Siling Jiao)
The Philippine government started to lay its claim in the South China Sea
in 1947, a year after the Philippines gained its independence from the United
States. During that time, the Philippine government described the Spratlys as the
“New Southern Islands”. Then Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Carlos P.
Garcia requested the Allied Forces to put the “New Southern Islands” under
Philippine jurisdiction for security reasons. The Philippines even asserted its
sovereignty to the KIG before the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in the
1950s. Since 1968, the Philippine military has effectively occupied and
administered at least eight of the islands in the KIG.
See “An Introduction to the South China Sea” at
Ralph A. Cossa, "Security Implications of Conflict in the South China Sea: Exploring Potential
Triggers of Conflict", A Pacific Forum CSIS Special Report ", PacNet Newsletter #16. (April 17,
Lu Ning, Flashpoint Spratlys (Singapore: Dolphin Trace Press Pte Ltd, 1995).
On 11 June 1978, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos signed Presidential
Decree No. 1596 declaring the KIG as a municipality of Palawan. PD 1596
vividly reflects Philippine policy position on this claim when it states that the
KIG “does not belong to any state or nation, but, by reason of history, indispensable
need, and effective occupation and control established in accordance with international
law, such areas must not be deemed to belong and subject to the sovereignty of the
Philippines.” It has also declared the area as vital to the security and economic
survival of the Philippines. Since then, residents of KIG have been holding local
elections there to demonstrate Philippine sovereignty in the area.89
Philippines recognizes the fact that there are other claimants on the KIG. PD
1596 articulates Philippine perspective on this matter when it says that “while
other state have laid claims to some of these areas, their claims have lapsed by
abandonment and can not prevail over that of the Philippines on legal, historical, and
Another basis of Philippine claim of the KIG is the principle of terra
nullius. This principle states that the islands being claimed by the Philippines are
owned by no one and without a sovereign authority. The discovery and
occupation of Filipino navigator Tomas Cloma of around 33 islands, cays,
sandbars and coral reefs in the South China Sea on 15 May 1956 provided the
Philippines a historical justification of the claim. The Filipino navigator
collectively called these islands and islets as Free Territory of the Freedomland.
In 1956, Cloma wrote a letter to Garcia to inform him of the occupation of the
islands, which were described, to be outside of Philippine waters but not within
the jurisdiction of any country. When the Philippine media publicized the
Philippine claim, China, France, South Vietnam, the Netherlands and Taiwan
reportedly laid their respective claims to this group of islands.90
France and the Netherlands dropped their claims.
The Philippines also lays its claim on the basis of the principle of
proximity and the principle of the 200-nautical mile EEZ embodied in the
UNCLOS. The Philippines argues that the KIG falls within the EEZ of the
The final basis of claim of the Philippines is the principle of the continental
shelf. The KIG lies in the continental shelf abutting the Western boundaries of
Filipino geologists argue that Palawan is a mini-continent.
On the basis of geological evidences, the KIG belongs to the continental shelf of
For more discussion, see Aileen S. Baviera (ed), The South China Sea Disputes: Philippine
Perspectives (Manila: Philippine-China Development Resource Center and the Philippine
Association for Chinese Studies, 1992).
Merliza M. Makinao, “Understanding the South China Sea Dispute”, OSS Briefing Paper
(Quezon City: Office of Strategic and Special Studies, Armed Forces of the Philippines, 1988), p.
See Haydee B. Yorac, “The Philippine Claim to the Spratly Island Group” in Theresa C. Carino
(ed), China-ASEAN Relations: Regional Security and Cooperation (Manila: Philippine-China
Development Resource Center, 1991) and Gil S. Fernandez, “The Philippine’s South China Sea
Claims” in Baviera, pp. 18-24.
Palawan. PD 1596 asserts this basis of claim when it states that the KIG “is part of
the continental margin of the Philippine archipelago.”
Strategic Significance of the South China Sea
In Philippine Foreign and Security Policy
The South China Sea is strategically significant for the Philippines because
of the following considerations: a) The politics of oil; b) The geopolitics of
navigation; and, 3) The politics of marine resources.
The Politics of Oil. It has been projected that oil consumption in Asia is
going to increase dramatically in the next few decades. Over the next 20 years,
oil consumption among developing Asian countries is expected to rise by 4%
If the current oil demand persists, oil consumption in Asia will
double in 2020. Though the Philippines only represents 1.2% of the total oil
consumption in Asia, its oil production is extremely limited making the country
heavily dependent on oil imports.
Due to the development of new offshore deepwater oil deposits, the
Philippines experienced a modest increase in oil production in 2007 estimated at
23 thousand barrels per day (bbl/d).93
The Malampaya Project is the country’s
largest natural gas development project. Nonetheless, the Philippines continue
to rely on imported oil, particularly from the Middle East, to meet the increasing
domestic demand. This situation encourages the Philippines to consider the
South China Sea as an alternative source of its power supply.
There are conflicting claims on the oil potential of the South China Sea.
Based on the research conducted by Chinese experts, the total gas resources of
the South China Sea can reach 900 Tcf with an annual production of 1.8 Tcf.
Other sources indicate that the potential oil resources of the South China Sea are
213 billion barrels. In the 1995 study conducted by Russia's Research Institute of
Geology of Foreign Countries, there are around 6 billion barrels of oil in the
Spratly Islands, of which 70 percent would be natural gas.94
It has also been
estimated that the hydrocarbon resource potential of the Spratlys area fall into
the very broad range of between one and 17.7 million tons of oil.95
competing estimates, the South China Sea is perceived to be “oil rich”, Chinese
media described the area as the “Second Persian Gulf”.
David Rosenberg, “The South China Sea” at http://www.southchinasea.org/why.html.
Energy Information Administration, “Oil Consumption and Production in the Philippines” at
Rosenberg, “The South China Sea” at http://www.southchinasea.org/why.html.
Clive Schofield, “Sea of Plenty: The Oil Factor in the South China Sea and Prospects for Joint
Development” (Paper prepared for the Panel on the South China Sea in honour of Professor
Michael Leifer at the Third International Conference of the European Association of Southeast
Asian Studies, London, 6-8 September 2001), p. 7.
Oil and Natural Gas Potential in the South China Sea
Brunei 1.35 14.1 145,000 340
Cambodia 0 0 0 0
China* 1 (est.) 3.5 290,000 141
Indonesia* 0.2 29.7 46,000 0
Malaysia 3.9 79.8 645,000 1,300
Philippines 0.2 2.7 <1,000 0
Singapore 0 0 0 0
Taiwan <0.01 2.7 <1,000 30
Thailand 0.3 7.0 59,000 482
Vietnam 0.6 6.0 180,000 30
Total 7.5 (est.) 145.5 1,367,000 2323
Source: GlobalSecurity.Org, “Oil and Gas in the South China Sea”, 2008.
Among the claimants in the Spratlys, the Philippines has been considered
to be the most active in licensing exploration activities. As stated earlier, the
Malampaya Natural Gas to Power Project is its largest venture that started to sell
gas in January 2002. The Malampaya Gas Field has been proven to be a source of
3.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas with 118 million barrels of condensate.
Geopolitics of Navigation. The South China is described as one the
world’s maritime superhighways. More than 50% of the world’s supertanker
traffic passes through the South China Sea. Every year, almost half of the
world’s merchant fleets sail through the South China Sea.
According to US Energy Information Administration, “tanker traffic
through the Strait of Malacca at the southwestern end of the South China Sea is
more than three times greater than Suez Canal traffic, and well over five times
more than the Panama Canal.”96
Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs) in the
South China Sea are therefore a matter of life and death for the Asia Pacific
countries considering that around 41,000 ships use its waterways.97
China Sea is therefore a strategic waterway as it also provides the key maritime
link between the Indian Ocean and East Asia.98
Rosenberg, “The South China Sea” at http://www.southchinasea.org/why.html.
Ji Gouxing, “Rough Waters in the South China Sea: Navigation Issues and Confidence Building
Measures”, Asia Pacific Issues, no. 53 (Honolulu: East West Center, August 2001), p. 2.
Source: Energy Information Administration, 2008.
As an archipelagic state, the Philippines heavily depends on the freedom
of navigation in the South China Sea for its national development and survival.
With a total coastline of 17,500 km, of which 1,200 km face in the South China
Sea, there is no doubt that the Philippines has enormous interest in the maritime
security of SLOCs in the area considering that around 400,00 fishing vessels and
20,000 other commercial vessels navigate in Philippine waters.99
almost one third of the country’s sea lanes are found to be “unsafe” for
navigation. Moreover, shippers and mariners do not use the Philippine sea
lanes as extensively as the Strait of Malacca and the South China because
voyages in the Philippine waters will take longer. Thus, the Philippines has to
pursue its claims in the busy waterways of the Spratlys to promote its
Politics of Marine Resources. Marine scientists contend that the South
China Sea is rich in marine resources. It is described as “the center of maritime
generic richness and diversity in the world” with a macro-ecosystem
characterized by “high bio-diversity and fisheries productivity” due to the
Aileen S.P. Baviera, “Maritime Security in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea: A View
from the Philippines” (Paper presented at the International Conference organized by the
Institute for Strategic and Development Studies at the Manila Hotel on 17-18 October 1997).
“intrinsic connectivity of coral reefs, sea-grass, and mangrove forests.”100
United Nations Atlas of the Oceans declares the South China Sea as Large
Marine Ecosystem (LME) with the world’s highest level of bio-diversity.101
Because the South China Sea is the locus of complex ecological
connectivities, the area has been considered a “savings bank” of all claimant
Marine production in the area represents 12% of the total marine
Culture fisheries, in fact, contribute 54% of worldwide
Due to its rich marine endowments, claimants, including
the Philippines, are competing for control of the fishing area of the South China
Sea. The situation is aggravated by the overlapping EEZ not only among
claimants but also other littoral states of the South China Sea.
In the study of Pakjuta Khemakorn of the United Nations – The Nippon
Foundation, “The average per capita consumption of fish in East and Southeast
Asia during the period 2000-2003 was 26.1 kg/year. This is much higher than the
world average of 16.3 kg/year.”105
Khemakorn also writes:
Fisheries also contribute to the employment and income of
millions of people in the region. In 1994, the estimated numbers of
full and part-time fishers engaged in marine and inland fisheries
were 8.7 million and 1.7 million, respectively. According to FAO's
findings, around 85% of the world's fishers are concentrated in
Asia, particularly in the SCS region, compared to 77% in 1970.
China has the largest number of fishers followed by Vietnam,
Indonesia and the Philippines. In total, at least 31 million people
are engaged in the fisheries sector (including aquaculture) and
related industries in the region.
Fisheries, therefore, play a very vital role in the food and economic
security littoral states in the South China Sea.
Miguel D. Fortes, “The Role of Marine Environmental Science in the Western Philippine Seas”,
University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (Unpublished, 1999).
For an excellent research and analysis on this issue, see Pakjuta Khemakorn, “Sustainable
Management of Pelagic Fisheries in the South China Sea Region” (Manuscript, November 2006)
See Clarita R. Carlos, “Ecological Connectivity in the South China Sea” (National Defense
College of the Philippines, unpublished paper, 2001).
E.D. Gomez, “Is the Degradation of Marine Resources in the South China Sea Reversible?:
Approaches to Sustainable Management” at http://www.emecs.or.jp/2000thai-sympo/pdf/re-
Khemakorn, “Sustainable Management of Pelagic Fisheries in the South China Sea Region”,
op. cit., pp. 28-29.
The South China Disputes After 9/11: A Continuing Challenge in
With the politics of oil, geopolitics of navigation and politics of marine
resources, there is no doubt that the South China Sea is a continuing security
challenge in Philippines-China relations even after 9/11 with significant impact
on the security of Southeast Asia and its neighboring regions. Though both
countries are parties to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South
China Sea, which, according to a study, is a product of de-escalation of dispute in
competing claims on the ownership of the islands continue to be a
source of security anxieties not only between the Philippines and China but also
other claimants and stakeholders in the conflict.
One of the main sources of controversies involving the Philippines and
China over the issue of the South China Sea was the JMSU scandal. Though
Vietnam was part of the JMSU, the issue primarily involved the Philippines and
China because of domestic political dynamics in Manila. The three petroleum
companies of the three countries signed the JMSU on 14 March 2005 in Manila in
order to undertake joint marine seismic exploration of designated areas in the
Spratlys. The three countries regarded the JMSU as a significant step in the
implementation of the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China
Sea. The JMSU is a manifestation of pragmatic cooperation in the South China
Sea in order to promote peace, stability and development of the contested area.
The original JMSU was only signed between the Philippines and China on
1 September 2004 as part of their efforts to enhance their bilateral relations. But
Vietnam protested for being excluded in the initiative. Being a strong claimant,
the Philippines and China accommodated Vietnam after less than a year of
negotiations that led to the signing of the tripartite agreement.
China described the JMSU as “landmark agreement” while the Philippines
called it a “historic breakthrough”. According to President Arroyo, "This is a
historic event because it is the first, it is the breakthrough in implementing the
provisions of the code of conduct in the South China Sea among ASEAN and
China to turn the South China Sea into an area of cooperation rather than an area
of conflict." Arroyo added, "It is not only a diplomatic breakthrough for peace
and security in the region, but also a breakthrough for our energy independence
program because one of the elements of this program is to work on strategic
alliances with our friends and allies so that we can have more supply of energy
for the region and our country." A $15 million budget was allotted for the
implementation of the JMSU for a period of three years covering 2005 to 2008.
However, the JMSU was put in the cloud of controversy in the Philippines
because of the allegation that the Philippine government sold out parts of its
territory to China in exchange of Official Development Assistance (ODA). The
short article written by Barry Wain triggered the said scandal. In this article,
Ralf Emmers, “The De-Escalation of the Spratly Dispute in Sino-Southeast Asian Relations”,
RSIS Working Paper Series (6 June 2007).
Wain heavily criticized President Arroyo for her “bungle in the South China
Wain argued that President Arroyo entered into “unequal and
surreptitious” agreement with China, which lawmakers in Manila linked with a
$329 million contract with the Chinese company, the ZTE, for a national
broadband network. What made the JMSU highly suspicious, Wain stressed,
was the lack of transparency in the agreement. He said that the JMSU was
“shrouded in secrecy” and broke ranks with the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN), which according to Wain, “was dealing with China as a bloc
on the South China Sea issue.” Wain went on to contend:
President Arroyo’s agreement with China for a joint seismic study was
controversial in several respects. By not consulting other ASEAN
members beforehand, the Philippines abandoned the collective stance that
was key to the group’s success with China over the South China Sea.
Ironically, it was Manila that first sought a united front and rallied
ASEAN to confront China over its intrusion into Mischief Reef a decade
earlier. Sold the idea by politicians with business links who have other
deals going with the Chinese, Ms. Arroyo did not seek the views of her
With the allegation that the Philippines has soften its claim in the South
China Sea in favor of a multi-million dollar loan package from China,
Congressman Roilo Golez sponsored an inquiry into the alleged anomalous
agreement and argued that if found guilty of treason, President Arroyo should
be held accountable and be subjected to impeachment procedure.109
that the JMSU was illegal and unconstitutional because it did not pass the
approval of the Philippine Congress.
But government officials contended that the JMSU did not violate the
Philippine Constitution and it was intended to ease the country’s dependence on
Local officials in Palawan even expressed support to the JMSU
arguing that this “will open the gates for us to really know the resources we
Moreover, the Philippine government exclaimed that the JMSU was a
tripartite commercial agreement among three oil companies of China, the
Philippines and Vietnam. The agreement was not “a sell-out” of Philippine
territory as the JMSU did not alter the territorial claims of three parties. The
Philippine government also explained that the JMSU was an exemplary
Barry Wain, “Manila’s Bungle in the South China Sea”, Far Eastern Economic Review,
“Lawmaker wants Arroyo held liable for authorizing JMSU,” Sun Star (11 March 2008) at
Philippine Information Agency, “JMSU not a treaty; does not violate RP's Constitution -- Perez,
Manalac “, Issues Monitor (9 March 2008) at http://www.gov.ph/news/default.asp?i=20308.
“Local Officials Backing the JMSU Agreement ,” Sun Star (11 March 2008) at
confidence building measure (CBM) to convert the region of conflict in the South
China into a region of peace and cooperation.
The heat on the JSMU scandal slowed down when it expired in June 2008.
But the Philippine government has organized a committee headed by the
Department of Foreign Affairs to look into the possibility of extending the JMSU
for mutual benefits of all parties concerned.112
This indicated that despite the
controversy, the Philippine government remained steadfast in its position that
the JMSU was needed to manage the South China Sea Dispute peacefully.
Managing the South China Sea Disputes:
Towards A Cooperative Management Regime?
After 9/11, Philippines-China relations have improved tremendously
based on the various agreements the two governments have entered into in
various fields. Their bilateral relations also became comprehensive when they
started their defense and security dialogue in 2005 and enthusiastically pursued
thereafter a series of exchange visits of their military and security officials.
But the JMSU scandal also demonstrated that their bilateral security
relations remain fragile and the issues of territorial integrity in the South China
Sea continue to be a sensitive issue in their bilateral relations.
There have been a lot of proposals to peacefully manage the South China
Sea Dispute. One proposal is through a functionalist approach where claimants
will start cooperating in non-political aspects of the issue in order to “put under
the rag” all sensitive issues that can trigger conflict.113
Another proposal is
through “joint development”, which inspires the JMSU.114
There is also a concept
of “sharing the resources” of the South China Sea as a peaceful option.115
But the most recent proposal is called “cooperative management regime”
(CMR) conceptualized in 2007 in an international conference in Singapore
organized by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies of Nanyang
“ Committee formed to study possible extension of JMSU”, GMA News (2 July 2008) at
See Rommel C. Banlaoi, “A Functionalist Approach to the Management of Conflicts in the
South China Sea: Options for China, the Philippines and other Claimants”, in Security Aspects of
Philippines-China Relations, op. cit., Chapter 8. Also in Rommel Banlaoi, The ASEAN Regional
Forum, the South China Sea Disputes, and the Functionalist Option (Quezon City: National Defense
College of the Philippines), pp. 54-80.
Clive Schofield, “Sea of Plenty: The Oil Factor in the South China and Prospects for Joint
Development” (Paper prepared for the Panel on the South China Sea in honour of Professor
Michael Leifer at the Third International Conference of the European Association of Southeast
Asian Studies, London, 6-8 September 2001).
Mark Valencia, Mark Jon M. Van Dyke and Noel A. Ludwig, Sharing the Resources of the South
China Sea, Paperback edition. (Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 1997).
Apparently influenced by a “Regime Theory” in
international relations, the CMR is consistent with the functionalist option in
upholding the idea of functional cooperation to manage conflict in the South
China Sea. Though the CMR remains embryonic in its conceptualization with
little clarity and coherence, it urged claimants to engage in cooperation in non-
traditional security as part of the over-all CBM and trust building in the South
China Sea. The CMR is deemed to be alternative “conflict-avoidance” approach
for the establishment of a regime of peace and stability in the South China Sea.
The Philippines and China can contribute in the development of CMR in
the South China Sea by pursuing a bilateral fisheries agreement. China and
Japan entered into this kind of agreement in 1997 while China and South Korea
followed suit in 2000. In fact, the Philippines has already proposed in 2007 a
’fisheries corridor’ in the South China Sea to avoid potential conflicts that could
affect peace and stability in the region.117
Though the Philippines and China
already held in 2005 the First Meeting of the Philippines-China Joint Commission
on Fisheries on explore bilateral cooperation on fishery investments, research
and technology, and safety of property and life at sea, the momentum to talk was
disturbed by the JMSU controversy. There is a need to sustain talks on this issue
to find a more pragmatic, peaceful and non-confrontational solution to the South
China Sea conflict.
Summary and Conclusion
The Philippines has a policy to pursue what it calls a legitimate claim in
the contested areas of the South China Sea. Immediately after the end of the cold
war, territorial issues in the South China Sea became a source of tension in
Southeast Asia because of China’s passage of territorial waters law in 1992 and
occupation of the Mischief Reef in 1995. However, the tension deescalated after
9/11 due to China’s “charm offensive” in Southeast Asia, which resulted in the
signing of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China in 2002.
The Declaration was hailed as a historic landmark in managing disputes in the
South China Sea.
But the South China Sea continues to be a security challenge between the
Philippines and China because of lingering concerns over the sensitive issue of
territorial integrity and national sovereignty. The JMSU controversy was a clear
manifestation of this continuing security challenge. Though there have been
many proposals to manage disputes in the South China Sea peacefully, a new
approach called “Cooperative Management Regime” is being advanced. The
Philippines and China may consider this approach in order to find a more
pragmatic and peaceful solution to the South China Sea conflict.
The South China Sea: Towards a Cooperative Management Regime (Conference Report: RSIS, NTU,
Singapore, 16-17 May 2007). Also see Sam Bateman and Ralf Emmers (eds), Security and
International Politics in the South China Sea: Towards a Cooperative Management Regime (New York
and London: Routledge, 2008).
“Philippines wants fishing agreement in S. China Sea”, Reuters (4 September 2007) at
The Taiwan Factor in Philippines-China Security Relations
Though Philippines-China security relations have gone a long way since
the establishment of their diplomatic ties in 1975, both countries continue to
confront the perennial challenge of Taiwan. Every now and then, the issue of
Taiwan surfaces in Philippines’ relations with China causing some irritants and
occasional hiccups in their bilateral ties. In fact, the Taiwan issue is a major
source of China’s security dilemma when dealing with other nations.118
While the Philippines upholds a “One-China Policy”, it maintains its
relations with Taiwan in economic, social and cultural realms. There was even
an allegation that the Philippines has discreet security ties with Taiwan making
China suspicious of Manila’s strategic intention in the Cross Strait conflict.119
This chapter examines the issue of Taiwan as a factor in Philippines-China
security relations. It describes Philippines-Taiwan security relations after 9/11
and how these relations have affected the direction of Philippines-China security
Background on Philippines-Taiwan Relation120
Prior to the establishment of Philippines’ relations with the People’s
Republic of China (PROC), the Philippines first had a diplomatic relations with
the Republic of China (ROC). When the Philippines became an independent
republic in 1946, the very first Treaty of Amity it ever entered into was with the
ROC, and then called by the Philippine government as the Nationalist China.
Establishing diplomatic relations with the ROC was considered to be a top
foreign policy priority of then President Manuel Roxas.121
As reciprocation, the
ROC, on the other hand, was one of the first countries to recognize the
Philippines as an independent republic.
Common historical experience during the war, geographic proximity and
cultural familiarity were identified to be the crucial factors that strongly
encouraged the Philippines to establish close ties with Taiwan. During the 3
October 1946 presentation of credentials of Chen Chih-ping, the first Chinese
Sheng Lijun, China’s Dilemma: The Taiwan Issue (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian
Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, An Overview on Taiwan: Its Relations with RP
and Key National Developments (Quezon City: Armed Forces of the Philippines, January 2004).
This section is a revised version of Rommel C. Banlaoi, “Philippine-Taiwan Security Relations
in the Context of Philippine One-China Policy: Current Situation and Future Trends” in his
Security Aspects of Philippines-China Relations: Bilateral Issues and Concerns in the Age of Global
Terrorism (Quezon City: Rex Book Store International, 2007), Chapter 11.
Milton Walter Meyer, A Diplomatic History of the Philippine Republic (Honolulu: University of
Hawaii Press, 1965), p. 60.
ambassador to the Philippines, President Roxas stressed that the Philippines and
China had common ties due to geographic propinquity, a mutual wartime cause,
and Chinese contribution through industry and thrift over the centuries to
Philippine economic life.122
But the negotiations on Philippine-Chinese treaty of
friendship were not easy. Negotiations were stormy and surrounded with
controversies because of some domestic considerations. But both countries
finally signed the treaty on 18 April 1947, which provided that “the nationals of
each country were at liberty to enter or leave, to travel or reside in, the territory
of the other upon the same terms as the nationals of any third country in
accordance with domestic laws and regulations.”123
With the signing of the Treaty of Amity between the Republic of the
Philippines (RP) and the ROC, Manila established its Consulates General Office
in Amoy and Shanghai in 1947. To strengthen RP-ROC diplomatic ties, the
Philippines opened a legation in Nanking in March 1948 with Senator Proceso
Sebastian as the first Philippine ambassador to Nationalist China.124
Philippine Legation was short-lived because of domestic political changes in
China. When Mao Tse Tung proclaimed the PROC in 1949, the Philippines
closed its legation in Nanking, established a liaison office in Guangzhou and in
1950 finally transferred to Taipei.
The establishment of a communist government in Mainland China posed
two major problems for the Philippine government. The first problem was
internal: increased control over Chinese immigration. The second problem was
external: recognition of a communist regime.
On the first problem, the Philippine government, having adopted a
staunch anti-communism policy, decisively prohibited Chinese immigration and
banned travel to or from Mainland China.125
While being very strict with
anything related with PROC, the Philippine government pursued strong
diplomatic and economic relations with Taiwan. The Philippine government
signed a trade agreement with Taiwan and even intensified exchange of
specialists and information leading to the development of a very close
ideological and economic partnership with ROC. In 1956, the Philippine
government raised the legation in Taipei to embassy level. The establishment of
a Philippine Embassy in Taiwan clearly demonstrated the interest of the
Philippine government to have strong economic and political partnership with
the Nationalist China.
Being both security allies of the United States, the Philippines and Taiwan
also established security relations. Military officers from the Philippines and
Taiwan had regular exchanges. Taiwan’s War College inspired the establishment
of the National Defense College of the Philippines in 1963. Both countries also
Jose Ingles, Philippine Foreign Policy (Manila: Lyceum of the Philippines Press, 1982), p. 141.
Benito Lim, “The Political Economy of the Philippines-China Relations” (Paper prepared for
the Conference on China’s Economic Growth and Its Implications to the ASEAN held at Ateneo
de Manila University, 16 November 1999), p. 6.
established regular exchanges of military officers and even intelligence
On the second problem, the Philippine government attempted not to get
entangled with Beijing-Taipei conflict. During the administration of former
President Elpidio Quirino, the Philippine government did not explicitly take an
anti-communism posture. But the establishment of Philippine Embassy in
Taiwan was a lucid expression of Manila’s political leaning with Taipei.
Philippine support of democratic and nationalist China represented by ROC was
revealed as early as 1951 when the Philippines signed a Mutual Defense Treaty
(MDT) with the United States. The MDT was an anti-Communist treaty that
aimed to deter communist expansionism in Asia. When the Philippines became
a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), then President
Ramon Magsaysay declared support to the US commitment to the defense of
“Formosa” against communist China.126
Succeeding Philippine presidents
(Carlos Garcia and Diosdado Macapagal) pursued a more vigorous anti-
Communist foreign policy.
It was only during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos when the
Philippine government considered establishing diplomatic relations with
communist countries for economic, strategic and security reasons. On 9 June
1975, the Philippines formally established diplomatic relations with PROC and
proclaimed a one-China policy treating Taiwan as a province of China. In
October 1975, the Philippines established an embassy in Beijing. Since then,
Philippine-China diplomatic relation has become one of the most important
bilateral relations of the Philippines with foreign countries. Thereafter, both
countries have entered into various cooperation agreements covering wide-
ranging areas like trade and investment; tourism and air services; cultural,
scientific and technical cooperation; agricultural cooperation; avoidance of
double taxation; postal parcel agreement; and even defense cooperation.127
result, Philippine relations with Taiwan were officially downgraded.
Though upholding a one-China policy, the Philippines continues to have
substantial relations with Taiwan. Philippines’ one-China policy does not
prohibit commercial, economic, cultural and other unofficial or people-to-people
contacts with Taiwan. To continue their relations in these areas, the Philippine
government converted its embassy in Taipei into Manila Economic and Cultural
Office (MECO). Taiwan, on the other hand, converted its embassy in the
Philippines into Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO).
Cited in Aileen San Pablo Baviera, “Philippines-China Relations in the 20th
Versus Strategy”, Asian Studies, Vol. 36, No. 2 (2000), p. 57.
Rommel C. Banlaoi, “Philippine-China Defense Relations: Sustaining Friendship, Enhancing
Cooperation?” (Paper presented at the Centre of Asian Studies, University of Hong Kong, 19
Philippine-Taiwan Security Relations After 9/11
From 1975 to 2001, the Philippines was bound to implement a “One-China
Policy”. But during this entire period, the Philippines retained its ties with
Taiwan and the issue of Taiwan caused occasional irritants in Philippines-China
relations. This state of affairs did not change after 9/11. Though the
Philippines and China cautiously enhanced their bilateral ties after 9/11,128
Taipei lobby in Manila (particularly those associated with Taiwan Association,
Inc. in the Philippines) made it burdensome for the Philippine government to
just put Taiwan aside.
Since 9/11, Philippine-Taiwan interactions in the area of agriculture,
commerce, culture, education, and sports have been very vibrant. Amidst the
growing relations between the Philippines and China, Philippines relations with
Taiwan have also grown steadily after 9/11. Taiwanese tourists to the
Philippines amounted to 1 12,206 sharing 4.3% of the total foreign visitors,
making Taiwan the 6th largest tourist source country in 2007. 129
Taiwan is also
one of the major destinations countries for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
In 2007 alone, Taiwan is the Philippines’ 5th
top overseas labor market with
more than 100,000 Filipino workers and migrants in Taiwan. It has also been
recorded that the Filipino workers in Taiwan was the second largest workforce in
2007 and that the annual remittance from Filipino workers in Taiwan can be
amounted to US$1 billion.130
This prompted former Trade and Industry
Secretary Cesar V. Purisima to call for stronger Philippines-Taiwan relations.131
Filipinos workers in Taiwan and the undocumented
(runaway, overstay, etc.)
As of November 2006
Year Filipinos Undocumented
2002 69,426 643
2003 81,355 873
2004 91,150 1,177
2005 95,703 1,543
2006 91,442 1,023
Source: Employment and Vocational Training Administration (EVTA), CLA; Romeo Velos, “Situation
of Filipino Migrant Workers in Taiwan” (2007) at http://www.catholic.org.tw/catholic/inn-
Carl Baker, “China-Philippines Relations: Cautious Cooperation” in Satu Limaye (ed), Asia’s
Bilateral Relations (Honolulu: Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, 2004), Chapter 2.
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines, “Bilateral Relations Between Taiwan
and the Philippines” at http://www.taiwanoffice.org.ph/erelation.htm.
Department of Trade and Industry, “Purisima Calls for Stronger RP-Taiwan Relations” at
Breakdown of Filipino Workers in Taiwan
As of November 2006
56,632Central Taiwan 23,268Southern
Taipei city 10,007Miaoli county 2,774Chiayi city 463
Taipei county 10,078Taichung city 3,293Chiayi county 833
6,823Tainan city 1,154
Hsinchu city 5,641Changhua
8,427Tainan county 3,404
Hsinchu county 6,914Nantou county 630Kaohsiung city 6,232
Keeling city 513Yunlin county 2,321Kaohsiung
Ilan county 1,152 Pingtung county 1,132
Hualien county 741 Taitung county 215
Penghu county 85
Kinmen county 16
Source: Employment and Vocational Training Administration (EVTA), CLA; ; Romeo Velos,
“Situation of Filipino Migrant Workers in Taiwan” (2007) at
One project that aims to cement a stronger Philippines-Taiwan relation is
the Kaohsiung-Subic Bay-Clark Economic Corridor Project. Designed in 2006,
the Kaohsiung-Subic Bay-Clark Economic Corridor Project has been described as
a giant step towards the strengthening of Philippines-Taiwan relations in the
post-9/11 era. According to Armand Arreza, Administrator and Chief
Executive Officer (CEO) of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), the
Kaohsiung-Subic Bay-Clark Economic Corridor Project will allow Taiwan and
the Philippines to vigorously build upon their already successful trade relations
and create a win-win situation.132
Arreza reported that there are more than 45
Taiwanese locators in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone accounting for more than 80
percent of the zone's export value. He argues that “the establishment of the
corridor is expected to resolve some issues that have concerned Taiwanese
companies and make Subic Bay attractive again.”133
“Corridor to Strengthen Philippines-Taiwan Economic Ties: Official”, Channel News Asia (5
May 2007) at http://faddz.blogspot.com/2007/05/corridor-to-strengthen-taiwan.html.
For the Philippines, continuously engaging Taiwan is an economic
necessity considering that Taipei is one of Manila’s main trading partners in the
world. In 2007, for example, Taiwan was the No. 6 trading partner to the
Philippines. For Taiwan, Manila is its No. 14 trading partner.134
The facts and
figures below are clear indications of Taiwan’s economic importance to the
Taiwan-Philippine bilateral trade volume reached US$7.199 billion in
2007. Taiwan was the N0.6 trading partner to the Philippines, while the
Philippines was ranked the 14th important trading partner to Taiwan.
The aggregated investment value from Taiwan up to 2007 amounted to
US$1.82 billion, and is the 7th
largest foreign investment in the Philippines,
just after Japan, USA, U.K., Netherlands, Singapore and South Korea.135
With these economic figures, it is therefore difficult for the Philippines to
isolate Taiwan in its economic and foreign policy agenda, particularly in the
context of Manila’s pursuance of “development diplomacy”. There is even a
talk of free trade arrangements between the Philippines and Taiwan to
strengthen their economic relations. According to David Hong, president of
Taiwan Institute of Economic Research (TIER), a free trade agreement “would
make both markets more accessible to each other, increase investment flow and
create stronger incentives for Taiwan companies to do business in the
It was argued, “As Taiwan and the Philippines are both members
of the World Trade Organization (WTO), no diplomatic ties are needed for both
countries to sign a free trade agreement, he said, adding the establishment of free
trade — exchange of products without barriers such as tariffs and quotas —
between Taiwan and the Philippines would only lead to a win-win situation for
Aside from vibrant economic relations, the tie that also binds the
Philippines and Taiwan in the post-9/11 world is their common adherence to
democratic political system. Though the countries have different experiences in
their democratization processes, they have shared a number of similarities
“including constitutional amendments, bolstering political participation,
restructuring political dominance, and more guarantees for the protection of
Adherence to common democratic principles provides a
strong political bridge between the Philippines and Taiwan to sustain their
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines, “Bilateral Relations Between Taiwan
and the Philippines” at http://www.taiwanoffice.org.ph/erelation.htm.
William C. Pao, “Taiwan and Philippines to benefit from FTA, TIER president says”, The China
Post (1 October 2005).
Samuel C.Y. Ku, “Political Democratization and Political Crises in Taiwan and the Philippines:
A Comparative Perspective”, Journal of Contemporary Eastern Asia, vol. 7, no.1 (March 2008), pp.