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Issues & Insights Vol. 22, SR1 – Resilient Alliance: Moving the U.S.-Philippines Security Relations Forward

  • Jeffrey Ordaniel, Editor

    Non-resident Adjunct Fellow & Director for Maritime Security, Pacific Forum

  • Carl Baker, Editor

    Senior Adviser, Pacific Forum

  • Gregory Winger

    Assistant Professor, University of Cincinnati

  • Angelica Mangahas

    PhD Candidate, Johns Hopkins SAIS

  • Graham W. Jenkins

    Senior Principal Analyst, Intelligence & Threat Analysis Unit, Aeronautics Sector, Northrop Grumman

  • Jay Tristan Tarriela

    Commander, Philippine Coast Guard

  • Rachelle Anne Miranda

    Training Specialist, Office of Civil Defense, Philippines

  • Edcel John A. Ibarra

    Foreign Affairs Research Specialist, FSI - Philippines

  • Deryk Matthew N. Baladjay

    Young Leader, Pacific Forum

  • Florence Principe Gamboa

    Non-resident Vasey Fellow, Pacific Forum

  • Santiago Juditho Emmanuel L. Castillo

    Research Analyst & Executive Assistant, Government of the Philippines


About this Volume

Authors of this volume participated in the inaugural U.S.- Philippines Next-Generation Leaders Initiative, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, through the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines. With backgrounds from academia, public policy, civil society and industry, the cohort brings rich insights on the past, present, and future of the U.S.-Philippines bilateral security relations.

The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their respective organizations and affiliations. Pacific Forum’s publications do not necessarily reflect the positions of its staff, donors and sponsors.

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Table of Contents

1. Buffering: Cybersecurity in the U.S.-Philippine Alliance | Gregory Winger
2. Explaining the Divide: Legislative Positions on the U.S.- Philippine Alliance | Angelica Mangahas
3. Friendship from a Distance: The U.S.-Philippine Alliance and Allied Access in WartimeGraham Jenkins
4. Coast Guard Engagement as an Interim Alternative to Bilateral Maritime Cooperation | Jay Tristan Tarriela
5. Understanding the Role of the United States in the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) System | Rachelle Anne Miranda
6. Advancing the Philippines-U.S. Alliance for Conflict Resolution in the South China Sea: Policy Options From an Issues Approach | Edcel John Ibarra
7. Onward and Upward: The Philippines-U.S. Security Alliance | Deryk Matthew Baladjay & Florence Principe Gamboa
8. The EDCA and the Philippines’ External Defense Capability Development | Santiago Castillo

Editor’s Note

Balikatan, or shoulder-to-shoulder, the name for the annual U.S.-Philippines military exercises, describes the enduring bond of Filipinos and Americans committed to the ideals of democracy and freedom. This bond has been over a century in the making. Since the United States first occupied the Philippines in 1898, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos have fought and died alongside the U.S. armed forces and helped defeat threats—from Imperial Japan and the Cold War to terrorist movements and violent extremism.

In 1951, then-U.S. President Harry S. Truman described the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty as a “strong step toward security and peace in the Pacific… and a formal expression of something that already exists — the firm relationship of brotherhood that binds our countries together.” Then-Philippine President Elpidio Quirino, in response, described the security pact as “a formal undertaking to assist each other and to stand together in the face of aggression, in the hope that hereafter we may be able to follow undistracted the fruitful pursuits of peace.”

Seven decades since, the bilateral security relationship has evolved considerably. It has faced a number of political changes spanning 12 Philippine presidents and 14 U.S. presidents and has withstood the test of time. Today, the alliance remains indispensable, not just for the peoples of both countries, but also for the broader Indo-Pacific in addressing emerging threats and regional challenges – from irredentist claims and blatant sidestepping of the rule of law in many of the region’s maritime spaces to natural disasters, cyber insecurity, climate change and the lingering threat of pandemics. The alliance has been consequential and will continue to survive and can help address these challenges. But it cannot be taken for granted.

While many American strategic thinkers and policy communities remain largely positive about security engagements with the Philippines, the Filipino public remains mostly ‘detached’ from their country’s foreign affairs. For instance, in Philippine elections, foreign policy and relations with major powers have never figured prominently. This is despite the importance of issues like the South China Sea to the country’s economic well-being. Moreover, there is a need to foster next-generation expertise on the Philippines in the United States. As more next-generation Filipinos and Americans assume positions of leadership in governments, public institutions, civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector, their priorities will begin to dominate discourses on the alliance. It is vital that the next generation is involved in contemporary strategic discourses relevant to U.S.-Philippine security relations and is mutually invested in the growth of their countries’ partnership.

This edited volume is an effort to provide exchange opportunities and a platform for next-generation U.S. and Philippine leaders and experts, so their voices can be heard, and creative thinking is encouraged about this vital alliance.

Gregory Winger premises his chapter with an assertion that, while the applicability of the U.S.-Philippine alliance to an armed attack has been discussed for decades, how the alliance addresses new forms of “aggression like cyberattacks remains undefined.” To fill the gap, Winger’s paper critically examines the place of cybersecurity in the alliance and traces the history of bilateral cybersecurity cooperation from the 1990s. He finds that integration of cybersecurity into alliance cooperation has lagged since 2016 and explains that elite-political discord and strategic divergence in how both governments perceive threats within the digital domain are to blame. Winger argues the different institutional preferences at the national level (i.e., U.S. prioritization of geostrategic competition pursued through military-cyber means versus the Philippines’ preoccupation with cybercrime and securing its cyberinfrastructure) limited the alliance’s role in addressing cybersecurity.

Angelica Mangahas’ chapter discusses the historically divergent attitudes on alliance issues between Malacañang Palace, where U.S. preferences are often embraced, and the Philippine Senate, where security cooperation with Washington is often re-dissected, and how President Rodrigo Duterte overturned this 65-year dynamic. On the former, Mangahas revisited the three common arguments used to explain the divergent attitudes: 1) Philippine senators’ views as a reflection of the national threat perceptions of the period that may not mirror U.S. priorities adopted by the sitting president; 2) the demand for the Philippine president to be pragmatic about security issues and the senators’ tendency to push for idealistic positions on independence; and 3) the impact of U.S. assistance flowing directly to the executive branch of government to the detriment of Congress, which otherwise holds the power the purse. On the latter, Mangahas offers a fourth explanation: electioneering. She argues that senators keen to pursue higher office often “adopt ‘maverick’-type personas on hot-button issues that galvanize public attention.” Hence, these senators tend to adopt positions that are seen as opposing the Palace.

Graham Jenkins’ chapter takes a closer look at the posture of U.S. forces in the Philippines under the existing Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and argues that any direct assistance from U.S. military “with sufficient combat power in a short enough timeframe” in the event of a contingency in the South China Sea will be a challenge. Jenkins analyzes three different access regimes (low/medium/high, in terms of relative permissiveness) to determine their operational feasibility and effectiveness should there be a need for U.S. military action to defend the Philippines in the South China Sea. The paper offers insights into “the ideal U.S. force posture that effectively defends the Philippines” against a maritime invasion and “the investments that Manila should prioritize to better defend itself.”

Jay Tristan Tarriela’s chapter argues that coast guard cooperation between the Philippines and the United States can serve as an interim approach to sustain bilateral maritime security cooperation in times when domestic political attitudes are not favorable to close alliance engagements. Tarriela’s arguments stem from his analysis of coast guard functions and how the Philippines and other regional states regard white hulls vis-à-vis their national security priorities. The chapter also posits that if domestic political conditions become favorable again to military-to-military engagement, coast guard engagement can complement and amplify naval initiatives. “In essence, coast guard cooperation between the Philippines and the United States can complement (vice substitute) future military engagements between the two allies.”

Rachel Anne Miranda’s chapter focuses on the significant role the U.S.-Philippine alliance has played in disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) in the Philippines. Miranda surveys the U.S. military’s contributions to the Philippines’ acquisition of logistics capacity for both security and disaster response operations, which, in turn, addresses the challenges posed by the intense impacts of disasters on vulnerable communities. Miranda underscores that U.S. assistance encompasses DRRM beyond mere disaster response operations, providing important insights into the disaster, human security, and conflict nexus.

Edcel John Ibarra’s chapter challenges the notion that the Philippines-U.S. alliance is detrimental to resolving the South China Sea disputes because the United States is external to the conflict. Using the ‘issues approach to international relations, ’ Ibarra examines the specific component issues of the South China Sea disputes and identifies the direct parties involved and types of conflict resolution implied in each issue. He argues that the United States is a “direct party on the issues of settling the extent to which coastal states may regulate the activities of user states and managing the risk of miscalculation associated with military operations in the South China Sea.” For Ibarra, this opens opportunities for cooperation between Manila and Washington on actual conflict resolution, conflict prevention, and conflict management.

The chapter co-authored by Deryk Matthew Baladjay and Florence Principe Gamboa explores the U.S.- Philippines alliance in three critical respects. First, it explains why the alliance is important and why it will continue to benefit the two countries. Second, it presents an analytical framework originally conceptualized by Victor Cha to show the Philippines’ disposition toward its alliance with Washington, which explains why countries like the Philippines link and delink or hedge against major powers. Finally, it explores what the Philippines and the U.S. can do moving forward. Baladjay and Gamboa argue that, while hedging has been beneficial for the Philippines in dealing with geopolitical uncertainties, the time has come for Manila to decide “whether or not it wants to be a shaper in international relations.”

The final chapter by Santiago Castillo examines how the EDCA can further improve the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) external defense capabilities and improve the defense ties of the two allies. Santiago argues that a particular area where the EDCA can advance U.S.-Philippine military partnership is improving the AFP’s ability to protect the country from external military threats and adapt or effectively respond to a dynamic geopolitical environment.

Authors of this volume participated in the inaugural U.S.-Philippine Alliance Next-Generation Leaders Initiative, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, through the U.S. Embassy Manila. With backgrounds from academia, public policy, civil society, and industry, the cohort brings rich insights on the past, present, and future of the U.S.-Philippines bilateral security relationship.

About the Authors

Gregory Winger is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Fellow with the Center for Cyber Strategy and Policy at the University of Cincinnati. He is also a former Fulbright Scholar to the Philippines and Fellow with the National Asia Research Program.

Gica Mangahas is a PhD candidate at the Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies. She received her MA in Security Studies from Georgetown University. She previously worked as an analyst and researcher for the Stratbase – Albert Del Rosario Institute in Manila.

Graham W. Jenkins is a senior principal analyst with the Strategic Assessment unit in Northrop Grumman’s Aeronautics Sector. He is responsible for strategic analysis, operations research, and long-range planning affecting the development of advanced technologies and aircraft design across a wide range of scenarios and capabilities. His background lies in international security and defense, nuclear weapons, and wargaming and red-teaming. Graham previously worked as an intelligence analyst focused on East Asia and influence operations as a contractor for the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. He has also worked as a consultant at EY, strategic analyst at the Scitor Corporation, and a research assistant at the Institute for Defense Analyses, focusing on risk management, nuclear policy, and wargame design. Graham is a Pacific Forum Young Leader and adjunct fellow with the American Security Project; he was previously an Energy Security Fellow with Securing America’s Future Energy, a Penn Kemble Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, and a Nuclear Scholar with the CSIS Project on Nuclear Issues. Graham holds an MSc in Theory and History of International Relations from the London School of Economics and a BA in history and international affairs from Sarah Lawrence College.

Jay Tristan Tarriela is a commissioned officer of the Philippine Coast Guard with the rank of Commander. He is the Director of PCG’s Leadership and Doctrine Development Center. He obtained his Ph.D. in Policy Analysis from the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo under the GRIPS Global Governance (G-cube) Program. At GRIPS, he was a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) ASEAN Public Policy Leadership Scholar. Previously, he was assigned at the PCG national headquarters in Manila and performed numerous functions in different capacities, including maritime security capability development and organizational restructuring reforms. He also acted as the personal adviser to the PCG Commandant on human resource management, particularly on recruitment plans, career management, and personnel specialization. He attended numerous military and coast guard training, locally and abroad. He holds a graduate degree from the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy Graduate School and a Master of Policy Studies from GRIPS and the Japan Coast Guard Academy, where he was part of the inaugural class of the Maritime Safety and Security Program launched jointly by both institutions in 2016. He is also a Young Leader with Pacific Forum, Honolulu. Further, he has written opinion-editorial articles published by The Diplomat, The National Interest, Analyzing War, and other leading publications.

Rachelle Anne Miranda is a disaster risk reduction (DRR) practitioner and has devoted her professional life as a public servant in the Office of Civil Defense. She is currently assigned as a Training Specialist- building capacities in civil defense and DRR in the Philippines, and concurrently, the Deputy Spokesperson of OCD and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Rachelle holds a master’s degree in Disaster Risk and Resilience from Ateneo De Manila University and currently, a master’s candidate in Master in Public Administration Major in Health Emergency and Disaster Management at Bicol University. Her research specialization and interests are in Incident Command System, risk communication, DRR localization, disaster statistics, and international and local humanitarian work.

Edcel John A. Ibarra is Foreign Affairs Research Specialist at the Philippine Foreign Service Institute working on territorial and maritime security concerns. He is pursuing a master’s degree in international studies at the Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines Diliman. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science, magna cum laude, from the same university in 2015.

Deryk Matthew N. Baladjay is a member of the Pacific Forum’s Young Leaders Program. He is also Research Manager at Amador Research Services and an Assistant Editor at the Philippine Strategic Forum, based in Manila.

Florence Principe Gamboa is a non-resident Vasey Fellow at the Pacific Forum. She is also Senior Research Associate at Amador Research Services and Managing Editor at the Philippine Strategic Forum, based in Manila.

Santiago Juditho Emmanuel L. Castillo has an MA degree in International Studies major in Asian Studies from De La Salle University and a BA degree in Philosophy from San Beda University. The focus of his graduate studies is on Japan’s defense/security policies and strategies in light of the changing security situation in the Asia-Pacific. He is also interested in military capability developments and defense diplomacy. He currently works as a Research-Analyst and Executive Assistant for the Philippine government for the past three years. His research specialization and interests are warfare and strategic studies, traditional geopolitical security issues, military technologies, as well as foreign and defense policies of Japan and Russia.

About the Editors

Jeffrey Ordaniel is non-resident Adjunct Fellow and Director for Maritime Security at the Pacific Forum. Concurrently, he is also Associate Professor of International Security Studies at Tokyo International University (TIU) in Japan. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations and specializes in the study of offshore territorial and maritime entitlement disputes in Asia. His teaching and research revolve around maritime security and ocean governance, ASEAN regionalism, and broadly, U.S. alliances and engagements in the Indo-Pacific. From 2016 to 2019, he was based in Honolulu and was the holder of the endowed Admiral Joe Vasey Fellowship at the Pacific Forum. Since 2019, Dr. Ordaniel has been convening the Indo-Pacific Maritime Security Expert Working Group, an informal network of select experts and scholars from Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia and North America, with the aim of generating sound, pragmatic and actionable policy prescriptions for the region. His current research on maritime security in Asia is funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), 2020-2022.

Carl Baker is senior adviser at Pacific Forum in Honolulu, Hawaii. Previousy, Mr. Baker served as the Forum’s Executive Director and as coeditor of Comparative Connections. He is a member of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP) and engaged in promoting security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region as a participant in several CSCAP Study Groups. Current focus areas include preventive diplomacy, multilateral security architecture, nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and nuclear security. Previously, he was on the faculty at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies and an adjunct professor at Hawaii Pacific University. Publications include articles and book chapters on U.S. alliances and political developments in South Korea and the Philippines. A retired U.S. Air Force officer, he has extensive experience in Korea, having served as an international political-military affairs officer for the UN Military Armistice Commission and as a political and economic intelligence analyst for U.S. Forces Korea. He has also lived for extended periods and served in a variety of military staff assignments in Japan, the Philippines, and Guam.

Photo: A ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in honor of service members who perished in the line of duty, November 11, 2018. Source: U.S. Embassy Manila Facebook Page