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Weakness and Gambits in Philippine Foreign Policy in the 21st Century

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Weakness and Gambits in Philippine Foreign Policy in the 21st Century
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  © Pacific Affairs: Volume 83, No. 4 December 2010  697  Weakness and Gambits inPhilippine Foreign Policy in theTwenty-first Century  Renato Cruz De Castro I n November 2001, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo made an ambitiousforeign policy pronouncement entitled “The Eight Realities of PhilippineForeign Policy.” 1 The policy statement highlights the government’sobjectives to contain domestic and international terrorism and address thecountry’s underdevelopment by enhancing its economic competitiveness inthe global market. It also contains bold diplomatic gambits such as balancingthe major powers (United States, Japan and China) in East Asia against eachother to ensure national security. Specifically, it intends to strengthen theUS-Philippine alliance, and to enlist Washington’s support for the country’sinternal security agenda. It also expresses reliance on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other multilateral organizations toadvance the Philippines’ security and economic goals. Significantly, it conveysthe need to protect the interests and well being of overseas Filipino workers(OFWs), and actively utilize the Philippine foreign affairs department anddiplomatic corps to explore new export markets abroad and to attract foreigntourists and investments to the country.These diplomatic gambits required material resources and military capabilities, and also entailed the cooperation of the Philippines with otherstates at the bilateral, regional and global levels. However, the Philippinestate’s internal weakness has thwarted the country’s pursuit of its strategicobjectives. The policy goals have unleashed latent tensions and conflicts inthe conduct of Philippine foreign relations. These include the government’sreinvigorated military/security ties with the US, amidst the vocal and chronicanti-American sentiments in Philippine society; the country’s desire to play an active role in regional and global security versus the political exigency toresolve its internal conflicts; and finally, the regime’s need to project thestate’s politico-diplomatic clout in global forums and regional developments vis-à-vis its limited economic and military capabilities. KEYWORDS: Philippine foreign policy, Philippine-U.S. relations, overseas Filipino workers, foreignpolicy of weak powers, development diplomacy, Philippine-China relations __________________ 1 President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s speech at the Manila overseas Press Club (MOPC), “ThePresident’s Night,” (Manila: Office of the President, 6 August, 2004), p. 1.  698 Pacific Affairs: Volume 83, No. 4 – December 2010  This article examines how the Philippine state’s domestic weakness hasthwarted the optimum conduct of its foreign relations in the early twenty-first century. Specifically, it raises this main question: How did the country’sinternal weakness, based on an analysis of three primary components of foreign policy (namely, national security, foreign economic policy andparticipation in multilateralism), affect the conduct of early-twenty-first-century Philippine foreign policy? It also tackles these corollary problems: What were the major foreign policy goals of the Philippines in the early twenty-first century? How did the Philippines pursue these goals? What factorshindered the pursuit of these goals? And, how did the Philippines fare inthe attainment of these foreign policy objectives? “State-Centred Realism” in the Third World Context  Foreign policy generally refers to the state’s expression and pursuit of its vital interests vis-à-vis the contending interests of other states in the system. 2  The conduct of foreign policy is considered one of the most expensive publicundertakings. It requires not only the formation, training and deployment of a diplomatic corps but also the maintenance of associated policy instruments such as defense build-up, trade promotion, economic statecraft,overseas development assistance, establishment of intelligence agencies, andassignment of military personnel in multilateral peace-keeping and peace-enforcement operations. 3 In this endeavour, public resources solely fuel thegovernmental machinery and functions such as creating and strengtheningbureaucracies, employing personnel, providing side-payments to supporters,co-opting opposition forces, subsidizing state enterprises and funding socialand military programs.The ability of a state to extract resources from its society determines itsability to pursue its foreign policy goals. Diplomatic historian Fareed Zakariasuccinctly emphasized this point in his theory of state-centred realism. A theory descriptive of American foreign policy in the late nineteenth andearly twentieth centuries, state-centred realism argues that the conduct of foreign policy is a complex and competitive two-level process wherein a state:a) advances its foreign policy objectives utilizing its policy instruments against other states; and, more significantly, b) uses its capacity to extract resourcesfrom its own society, and builds up its overall state power abroad. 4 The pursuit of foreign policy goals in the international realm depends largely on the __________________ 2 Mark R. Amstutz, The Rules of the Game: A Primer on International Relation  s (Colorado: ParadigmPress, 2008), p. 73. 3 Christopher Hill, The Changing Politics of Foreign Policy  (London; New York: Palgrave/Macmillan,2003), p. 225. 4 Fareed Zakaria,  From Wealth to Power: the Unusual Origins of America’s World Role  (New Jersey:Princeton University Press, 1998), p. 38.  Philippine Foreign Policy  699available resources within the polity and the ability of the political leadersto extract additional resources for foreign policy purposes. Domesticstructures and forces define the authority of the decision makers within thestate, and determine the level and kind of resources that leaders are able toextract from their own society. 5   According to Zakaria, the competitive domestic process of foreign policy involves two critical processes: 1) ability of the state to transform nationalpower into actual state power, which in turn will determine how it will defineits foreign policy goals (defensive or offensive realism); and 2) the state’ssufficient capacity and cohesion to perform one very crucial function vis-à-visthe domestic society: extraction of wealth. 6 He also notes that “states try toexpand their political interest abroad when central decision-makers perceivea relative increase in state power (defined as their ability to extract domesticresources for their foreign policy goals).” 7 In the conduct of foreign policy,policy or decision makers pursue national goals within the constraintsimposed by the power of other states, and by their own society’s institutionaldomestic structures and forces. 8  In many Third World countries, however, the state’s ability to extract resources from its society is constrained by constitutional structures, domesticinstability, political culture, graft and corruption, and political and economicunderdevelopment. An underdeveloped state simply does not have theresources to play an active role in international affairs. It might also be rockedby internal conflicts that could undermine its foreign policy as it diverts itsresources away from the build-up of state power. Domestic factors that workagainst the generation or extraction of national resources from the society,however, do not automatically relegate a state to utter powerlessness. It couldstill pursue its foreign policy goals if there are suitable opportunities in theinternational system for the state’s decision makers to take advantage of. 9  Michael Barnett and Jack Levy observed that some Third World states usealliances and alignments to obtain economic and military resources frompatronizing superpowers. 10 They argued that some Third World politicalleaders secure external resources to address internal threats through allianceformation rather than extraction from their economically stretched andpolitically alienated societies. __________________ 5 Stephen Krasner, “Actors and Institutions in the Study of International Politics,”   in StephenD. Krasner, ed., Power, the States and Sovereignty: Essays on International Relations  (London and New York:Routledge, 2009), pp. 9-10. 6 Zakaria, From Wealth to Power, p. 39. 7 Zakaria, From Wealth to Power, p. 38. 8 Krasner, Actors and Institutions in the Study, p. 9. 9 Laura Neack, The New Foreign Policy: U.S. and Comparative Foreign Policy in the 21 st  Century   (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003), p. 158. 10 Michael N. Barnett and Jack Levy, “Domestic Sources of Alignment: The Case of Egypt 1962-73,” International Organization  , vol. 45, no. 3 (summer 1991), p. 375.  700 Pacific Affairs: Volume 83, No. 4 – December 2010  The Philippines is a classic example of a Third World state that finds it difficult to extract resources from its society to finance a modest externaldefense establishment. In the early 1990s, the Armed Forces of the Philippines(AFP) began an ambitious modernization program to transform thePhilippine military into a conventional armed force comparable to most Southeast Asian militaries. This plan was the result of a strategic development at the end of the Cold War: the Philippine Senate’s non-concurrence to thePhilippine-US Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation of 1991 (PACT), andthe subsequent withdrawal of American military forces from the country.During the Cold War, US military facilities in the Philippines extended vitallogistical support to American forward-deployed forces operating inSoutheast Asia, the Indian Ocean and even the Persian Gulf. Furthermore, American air and naval assets based in those facilities acted as the de factoarmed forces against external threats since the Philippine military has beenprimarily responsible in counter-insurgency operations. Consequently, thePhilippine military veered away from developing any external defensecapability, and instead focused on the more pressing matter of counter-insurgency. 11 The Philippine Senate’s non-concurrence to the PACT pushedthe AFP to consider a self-reliant capability-building posture through aninitial 10-year modernization program. With the withdrawal of US military forces from the country, the Philippine military had to develop its externaldefense capabilities, and projected the acquisition of multi-role fighterplanes, off-shore patrol vessels, long-range maritime patrol craft, naval multi-role helicopters, coastal patrol boats and a naval missile system. 12  The Philippine Congress, however, used its “power of the purse” tomicromanage and delay this modernization program, and it was shelvedduring the Asian financial crisis in 1997. 13 Interestingly, the aborted AFPmodernization program was largely an offshoot of two legislative acts—Republic Act No. 7898 of 1995 (an Act Providing for the Modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines) and Joint Resolution No. 28 of 1996(A Joint Declaration of the Philippine Congress Approving the AFPModernization Program)—and not of a strategic exigency faced by thePhilippine military during the post-US bases period. Historically, congressionalreluctance to support any major AFP reform involving an increase in defensebudgets and arms modernization stems from two factors: a) a dominant viewamong the Philippine elite that addressing internal security threats whichdirectly challenge their traditional authority and property rights is the more __________________ 11  AFP Modernization Board, Annual Accomplishment Report 2006  (Quezon City: GeneralHeadquarters Armed Forces of the Philippines, 2007), p. 1. 12  AFP Modernization Board, Annual Accomplishment Report, p. 1. 13 This can be grasped from Senate hearings and proceedings of the AFP Modernization Program.See Liaison Office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, AFP Modernization Act  (Camp Emilio Aguinaldo: General Headquarters, AFP, November 1996).  Philippine Foreign Policy  701urgent task for the AFP rather than external defense; 14 and b) a sentiment  within the civilian government that any dramatic increase in defense spendingis a guns-versus-butter issue.Furthermore, the Philippine military’s participation in counter-insurgency/civil-military operations has engendered a culture of graft andcorruption in the AFP. 15 This has not only compromised its overall combat effectiveness and its traditional values of duty and honour; it has also madethe civilian government extremely suspicious of the military’s utilization of the annual defense budget. Thus, amidst the highly fluid and potentially dangerous world of the twenty-first century, the Philippine military is deemedas a laggard among the more modern (and middle power) Southeast Asianarmed forces (Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and even Vietnam)in terms of force modernization and development. 16 Confronted by thisbleak strategic situation, the Arroyo administration adopted two majorexternal policies to generate resources for its foreign and national security requirements: a) a revitalized alliance with the US; and b) an aggressivedevelopment diplomacy. Ending the Long Wars The Philippines is also faced with a perennial security challenge: its long wars against various insurgent groups. In the past four decades, the Philippinegovernment and its military have focused their attention, efforts andresources on containing rebel movements. In the 1970s, the country experienced two separate, enduring insurgencies that have cyclically flaredup and abated, resulting in more than 50,000 deaths. On the mainland of Luzon and on several Visayan islands, the leftist Communist Party of thePhilippines (CPP) and its offshoot united front organization, the NationalDemocratic Front (NDF), used their armed group, the New People’s Army (NPA), to mount a major rebellion that involved hit-and-run tactics, bombingsand assassinations against the Philippine state. Since the late 1960s, the CPPhas continuously built and consolidated its armed strength in an effort toseize state power by intensifying a “people’s war.” The declaration of 1973martial law led to the capture or deaths of almost the entire political andmilitary leadership of the CPP-NPA in the 1970s. 17 Despite these setbacks, __________________ 14 Noel M. Morada and Christopher Collier, “The Philippines: State versus Society,” in Muthiah Alagappa, ed., Asian Security Practices: Material and Ideational Influences  (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998), p. 53. 15 Dencio S. Acop, “Assessing the Expanded Role of the Armed Forces of the Philippines inNational-Building,” Asia-Pacific Social Science Review  , vol. 6, no. 2 (December 2006), p. 146. 16  AFP Modernization Board, Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program: A Primer  (QuezonCity: Camp Aguinaldo, 1998), p. 2. 17  Andrew Tan, Armed Rebellion in the ASEAN States: Persistence and Implications  (Canberra: AustralianNational University, 2000), p. 87.
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