Julio Amador; Dr. Aries Arugay; Deryk Baladjay; Justin Baquisal; Dr. Charmaine Misalucha-Willoughby
May 24, 2023
The Amador Research Services (ARS) and Foundation for National Interest (FNI) conducted the second annual iteration of its Philippine National Security Survey from November to December 2022, which focused on an expanded menu of regional strategic issues ranging from US-China competition, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and Philippine relations with external powers.
More than 1,200 respondents - covering civilian policy officers, uniformed personnel, academics, and policy-makers - shared their views on defense, foreign policy and geo-economics that have and will likely continue to inform the policy-planning of the Marcos administration. The key findings include:
1) High salience of non-traditional security issues such as food and energy security, as well as natural disasters and climate change mitigation. Territorial defense in the West Philippine Sea continues to be a top concern.
2) A majority preference for “neutrality” amid US-China competition, albeit with a strong level of support for measures addressing territorial defense and military modernization, such as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
3) Since the 2021 survey, traditional partners such as the US, Australia, and Japan remain the top-preferred diplomatic partners. There is a growing but still minority interest in partnerships with China, which is strongly opposed by an equal number of respondents.
4) Continuing belief by Filipino experts on multilateralism, including in arrangements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF).
For the assessments of the government’s capabilities and strategic processes, there is no clear-cut majority satisfaction across 9 parameters, including research, monitoring and evaluation, strategic analysis, and whole-of-government security planning - indicating the need to address institutional factors in defense and security modernization. A plurality of respondents were satisfied with the performance of the national administration, with the exception of issues such as developing capabilities for state security agencies and pre-2023 policies in addressing external security threats.
On views about international organizations, a majority supports ASEAN's centrality on foreign policy but also favors cooperation with security initiatives outside the region, like Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) and Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) trilateral pact. There is also a strong interest in deepening engagement with the European Union (EU). Nearly half of them of the respondents agreed on deepening the US-Philippine alliance beyond current levels of cooperation, with an almost equal number ambivalent and only 10% opposed to further enmeshment.
Given the commitment of the present and last administrations toward “independent foreign policy” (IFP), the survey also unpacked national security elites’ views and found that IFP is interpreted as a form of strategic autonomy to pursue national interest and defense, rather than non-alignment per se. This suggests that respondents may be partial to transactional or issue-based cooperation internationally.
On the Philippines’ international economic relations, respondents expressed support for RCEP, IPEF, ASEAN single market, and the Philippines’ economic strategy are discussed. More than half of the respondents believe that the goal of the cooperation under an ASEAN single market is achievable however, but also view that progress on the matter has been slow.
There are nuances in preferred economic partners. Japan is viewed as a priority partner for digital technology & ICT, infrastructures, and renewable energies, while ASEAN countries dominate issues such as agriculture and blue-economy.
The findings of the survey were presented by Dr. Charmaine Willoughby and Mr. Julio Amador to the public during an expert roundtable on 18 April 2023. The survey report was written by Julio Amador, Dr Aries Arugay, Deryk Baladjay, Justin Baquisal, and Dr Charmaine Misalucha-Willoughby.