The ASEAN-U.S. Maritime Exercise and Maritime Security

Geography dictates two divergent perspectives for ASEAN countries. The first belongs to the “continental” group and the second to the archipelagic nations, especially Indonesia and the Philippines, which constitute nearly half of ASEAN’s population, GDP, and land area, and over 80 percent of its exclusive economic zones. A maritime outlook could be expected to dominate […]

Duterte’s Game in Beijing

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s early-August announcement that he will finally invoke the Philippines’ arbitral tribunal victory against Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea took everyone by surprise. After all, it represented a marked shift from his earlier decision to “set aside” the landmark ruling, which has been vehemently rejected by China as “null and […]

Vietnam’s Uphill Battle in the South China Sea: A Need for More International Actors

The standoff between China and Vietnam near Vanguard Bank has passed the two-month mark without showing any sign of a resolution. Since mid-June 2019, a Chinese survey ship and its coast guard escorts have been maneuvering in a threatening manner in the southern part of Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), a short distance from Block […]

The Indo-Pacific: What’s in a Name?

When discussing the Indo-Pacific, John Henry Saxe’s poem of the blind men and the elephant comes to mind. His blind men likened the elephant to a wall, a spear, a snake, a tree, a fan, or a rope, depending on which part each had touched.  In a similar manner, leaders in the region focus on […]

Preeminence or Partnership? The United States in the Indo-Pacific

The release of the Indo-Pacific Strategy Report by the U.S. Department of Defense last month has given further shape to the United States’ vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. The document underscores the linkages between economics, governance, and security and stresses the importance of allies and partners. However, it also reveals the contradiction between […]

The Reed Bank Crisis: A Call for Upgrading the Philippine-U.S. Alliance

This year’s annual Bilateral Strategic Dialogue to coordinate the Philippine-U.S. alliance could not have come at a more opportune moment. First, it comes months after Philippine defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana called for a comprehensive review of the alliance in light of radical changes in the Indo-Pacific geopolitical environment. The Philippine defense chief, who formerly served […]

Duterte’s Pivot to Japan

One of the most underappreciated aspects of Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s foreign policy has been his facilitation of a golden age in bilateral relations with Japan. This strategic approach was on full display during the Filipino president’s latest visit to Tokyo, the third in less than three years, which revealed the deep strategic ties that […]

An Indian Ocean Agenda for Modi 2.0

Today’s globalized world increasingly depends on the Indian Ocean for trade connectivity. In 2018, Indian Ocean-connected nations had a combined nominal GDP of over $54 trillion and included 12 of the 16 members of the trillion-dollar club. By 2033, the Indian Ocean will connect 21 of the 25 global members of the projected trillion-dollar club. […]

Balikatan 2019 and the Crisis in Philippine-China Rapprochement

From April 1 to 12, units from the major branches of the U.S. and Philippine militaries conducted 28 major exercises that tested and enhanced their skills and abilities in joint combat and humanitarian operations. During the two-week Balikatan (“Shoulder-to-Shoulder”) exercises, Filipino, American, and a small number of Australian troops participated in counter-terrorism training, amphibious operations […]

Duterte’s Scarborough Shoal Moment

Three years into his quiescent China policy, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte is experiencing a rude awakening in the South China Sea. The ongoing Chinese siege of the Philippines’ largest land feature in the Spratlys, Thitu Island, represents Duterte’s greatest foreign policy crisis and, ironically, the very country he has courted assiduously is at the heart […]

A Landmark Ruling on the Chagos Islands

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in February issued a non-binding advisory opinion rejecting the United Kingdom’s claim of sovereignty over the Chagos Islands, which London calls the British Indian Ocean Territory, and ruling that they should be returned to Mauritius. The court, at the request of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), considered two […]

China’s Economic Cabbage Strategy

The blossoming Philippines-China relationship has opened a floodgate of Chinese investments, unnerving domestic players including the influential military establishment. In particular, China’s bid for a 300-hectares shipping yard in Subic Bay, the former site of one of the United States’ largest overseas naval bases, has unleashed a political firestorm, exposing the fragility of the ongoing rapprochement and the resilience of Beijing-skeptic sentiments in the Southeast Asian country.

A Closer Look at China’s Proposal for Joint Exploration with the Philippines

On November 20, Presidents Xi Jinping and Rodrigo Duterte witnessed the exchange of a “memorandum of understanding on oil and gas development” in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea between their respective foreign ministers in Manila. The highly anticipated agreement was expected to seal the radical change in relations between the two disputing parties in the South China Sea. But apart from the announcement of its title, details remain very sketchy.