The Philippines’ first and only industry magazine that deals with safety and security matters pervading the environment today.

The Philippines: Walking a Tightrope Between Alliances

The Philippines, a nation of resilience, finds itself in a precarious position on the geopolitical chessboard. China, its economic giant neighbor, is also the source of its most significant security concern. This complex relationship demands a delicate balancing act – maintaining strong economic ties with China while ensuring national security through partnerships with other democracies.

Historically, the Philippines and China have had a long and multifaceted relationship. Economically, China is the Philippines’ largest trading partner, with billions of dollars flowing between the two nations in trade. Numerous Chinese-funded infrastructure projects are underway, contributing to Philippine development. Culturally, the connection is undeniable, with a significant portion of the Philippine population having Chinese ancestry.

 However, China’s growing assertiveness in the West Philippine Sea casts a long shadow. The Philippines has legitimate claims to parts of this resource-rich region, which China contests. Chinese actions, including ramming and firing water cannons at Philippine resupply vessels, harassment and intimidation of Filipino fishermen, and deployment of military ships and coast guard forces in disputed areas, raise serious concerns about Philippine sovereignty and freedom of navigation. These actions not only threaten Philippine security but also violate international law.

The recent election of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has renewed focus on the Philippines’ foreign policy. The Marcos administration is reevaluating the approach taken by his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, who prioritized appeasement of China. This shift is evident in the Philippines’ renewed cooperation with the United States, a long-standing treaty ally.

 The US plays a vital role in Philippine security. Recent developments include increased access for US forces in the Philippines through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and joint military exercises like Balikatan. This cooperation serves as a deterrent to Chinese aggression and strengthens regional stability.

However, the Philippines cannot afford to alienate China completely. Maintaining a healthy economic relationship remains crucial. The Philippines benefits significantly from Chinese investments and access to its vast market. A strained relationship could lead to the loss of billions of dollars in trade and investment, higher consumer prices due to disrupted supply chains, and reduced access to Chinese infrastructure projects.

The challenge lies in finding the right balance – fostering solid ties with the US and other democracies while navigating a complex relationship with China.

One promising avenue for the Philippines, a beacon of hope, lies in Japan. Like the Philippines, Japan is a democracy that values a rules-based international order. Japan has been a dependable partner in both economic development and defense cooperation, providing substantial Official Development Assistance (ODA) with favorable interest rates and no debt traps. Strengthening this relationship can help the Philippines diversify its partnerships and reduce dependence on China.

The Philippines’ future security depends on a multi-pronged approach. While maintaining a “One China Policy,” the Philippines should continue to develop its relationship with the US and explore closer cooperation with other democracies like Japan. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can also mediate disputes and promote collaboration in the West Philippine Sea. By working with regional partners and upholding international law, the Philippines can navigate the region’s complexities and ensure its long-term security and prosperity.