Webinar discusses PH foreign policy and national security priorities for 2022 and beyond
Updated: Mar 10, 2022
Updated: 10:22 | 10 March 2022
The Foundation for the National Interest (FNI), FACTS Asia, and Amador Research Services (ARS) conducted the second installment of the Strategic Situationer Series titled “Philippine Foreign Policy and National Security Outlook and Priorities” on Thursday, 24 February 2022, 9:00 AM to 10:45 AM (Philippine Standard Time). Featured speakers are Ambassador Laura Del Rosario, President of Miriam College; and Dr. Gregory Winger, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Cincinnati (Ohio, United States).
Taking off from the first webinar on regional security outlook held in January, the second webinar focused on the Philippines’ future as a country and as a member of the global community. Discussions on foreign policy and national security are imperative, relevant and timely especially in the context of our upcoming national elections this May 2022.
In his opening remarks, VADM Jose Luis Alano shared the top national security concerns of the Philippines, based on a 2020 study: 1) Covid-19 pandemic, 2) terrorism, and 3) communist insurgency. Other security concerns in order of priority include: food security, national human disasters, external territorial defense, transnational crimes, cybersecurity, disinformation, and fake news.
“Domestically, the Philippines continues to grapple with complex layers of insecurities; most prominently the Covid-19 pandemic which has caught governments around the world by surprise,” VADM Alano stated. The pandemic is a major disrupter, creating a myriad of problems that stalled global economic growth. On the other hand, China’s actions continue to be the main external security issue, e.g., the swarming of Julian Felipe Reef incident with maritime militias and the water cannoning of supply vessels destined for Ayungin Shoal.
Ambassador Del Rosario examined the linkages between the economy, foreign policy, and security concerns of the Philippines. According to her, the Philippines should focus its efforts on climate change and sustainability because the Philippines' survival depends on it. Secondly, Ambassador Del Rosario invited the audience to think about the actors in the global arena. Most recently, the world is transfixed on the ongoing tensions and threat of war in the Russian-Ukraine border, with the participation of the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In addition, the Philippines must assess what further roles the US can play in the Indo-Pacific region as Manila turn to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) to lend stability in the South China Sea.
Amb. Del Rosario also explained that terrorism hampers our national development. According to her, national resources are spent to combat terrorism instead of allocating these to improve Philippine education and health systems. Fourth, the Philippines should evaluate its role in the region including how much it will be willing to invest to pursue this role and how much we should spend on maintaining our key alliances.
“The next President of the Philippines dampens or inspires national development,” according to Amb. Del Rosario. Finally, Amb. Del Rosario tackled the threat of technology, recognizing the pervasive role of traditional media and social media in shaping the Filipinos’ mindset. “If foreign entities are involved, undermining our democracy, that is the greatest threat of all,” she said.
Offering a non-Filipino perspective, Dr. Winger revolved his discussion on the increasing challenges of cybersecurity and tied this to the Philippine-US alliance. First, because of the evolving nature of international security concerns, the Philippine-US alliance must adapt accordingly. Much has been asked about the value of the alliance, but the two countries fall short in pursuing actions to improve the alliance. He said, “The greatest threat to the alliance is complacency. The alliance should undergo an evolutionary process to address global issues like climate change.” Winger also agreed with Del Rosario that the next Philippine President will have a huge effect on the direction of the alliance.
Dr. Winger further explained that cybersecurity need not be treated separately from traditional security issues, cognizant of how the former can infiltrate the latter. Both the Philippines and the US stand to benefit in integrating cybersecurity in its alliance priorities. For Winger, both countries should consider whether if a cyberattack was launched against either country. This again points to the emerging necessity for alliance adaptation: existing bilateral defense programs and joint military exercises should include cybersecurity. “Cybersecurity is here to stay,” he said.
Finally, Dr. Winger stressed the significance of education. The Philippines should invest in training its people - civilian and military - to avoid disinformation, to manage media consumption, to enhance critical thinking skills, and to develop cyber hygiene. He recommends expanding technical skills to everyone instead of focusing training on IT specialists.
The two speakers sparked great interest from the audience, who actively engaged the speakers during the open forum. Questions raised include: 1) cybersecurity infrastructure in the Philippines, 2) regional flashpoints, 3) PH-US cybersecurity partnership, 4) mining as a national security issue, 5) US-China rivalry, 6) post-pandemic economic recovery, 7) the establishment of a separate government agency for domestic security, and 8) on Philippine leaders.
More than one hundred fifty people attended the webinar. Participants from various sectors nationwide and overseas consisting of students, professors, government officials, defense and security personnel, the diplomatic corps, and non-governmental organizations attended the event.
A recording of the webinar is available on FNI's Youtube channel.
Screenshots of the event found below.