Moving forward with Philippine-US relations

Amb. Albert del Rosario
Former Secretary of Foreign Affairs
Chairman of the Stratbase ADR Institute

We, at the Stratbase ADR Institute Incorporated, fully welcome the official US statement that, “As the South China Sea is part of the Pacific, any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft, or public vessels in the South China Sea would trigger mutual defense obligations under Article 4 of our Mutual Defense Treaty.”

This, we view as one of the most important statements made in the many decades since the Mutual Defense Treaty was ratified in 1951.

It behooved the Filipinos to finally be provided this specific assurance which we rightly deserve.

It was also necessary for the US to strengthen, to reinforce, and to be more specific about its security commitment in light of the escalating situation.

It was furthermore an imperative for our disruptive northern neighbor to be forewarned of the significance of our mutual defense treaty alliance.

Under the Trump administration, it was moreover timely and strategic for the US to send a clear message to all its allies of the full intention and quality of its security guarantees.

Worldwide, it should be received as a positive and credible statement of US foreign policy that reaffirms its strong adherence to the rule of law.

No need to review the MDT

We entirely concur with the decision not to review the MDT given this official assurance that the US will defend the Philippines against any attack in the South China Sea.

Foregoing an official review of the MDT will avoid difficult challenges for us. It would, for example, serve the purpose of preventing our powerful northern neighbor from interfering in our internal affairs by promoting its unlawful expansion agenda in the South China Sea.

Need to work with the US in redlining Scarborough Shoal

Beyond the positive US declaration, it is essential for us to work with the US in redlining Scarborough Shoal so that any plans of Beijing to build artificial islands and militarize the area can be arrested.

There is vital urgency in doing this for the following reasons: on the one hand, to project its regional naval power, Beijing considers the Spratlys, the Paracels, and Scarborough Shoal as its security triangle in the South China Sea; on the other hand, from our standpoint, Scarborough Shoal is only 124 nautical miles from our nearest shore.

Need for closer partnership with the US in defense modernization

As our only treaty ally, we need to recognize the significance and importance of this alliance. We need to recognize that we are required to strengthen our own defense and security capabilities.

We as well need to recognize that, based on interoperability standards, a stronger and faster build-up of our military capabilities can only be achieved with the help and commitment of our treaty ally.

Bilateral FTA with the US – a great opportunity for enhanced economic cooperation

We understand that the US is open towards developing a Bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with certain countries including Great Britain, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.

Such an agreement grants favored trading status between two nations providing access to each other’s markets. It serves to uplift trade and economic performance.

There are many challenges that will confront us if we do not improve our competitiveness. Bilateral Free Trade Agreements will, however, open markets to our successful industries, thus adding jobs and lowering costs.

Our economic partnership with Japan can be deemed as a great success, which has resulted in improving foreign investment, increasing trade, expanding tourism, and adding more significant Official Development Assistance (ODA) programs.

We must therefore explore how to successfully negotiate a beneficial bilateral trade agreement with the US.

We need to do this.

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