Future challenges of our foreign policy


We have to encourage dialogue and trust-building among the major powers to shield our region from their rivalry. This can be done by providing venues to reinforce our areas of common interest in stability, security and interchange. It is in this context that the Philippines needs also to maintain our external security links with the United States, our only mutual defense treaty ally, and with like-minded countries such as Japan and Australia.

Keeping our defense ties strong is not taking sides. It is a conservative position conducive to stability. It is important for us that a regional security balance be maintained and that we avoid the unexpected. The status quo need not be static, but a dynamic balance is needed to account for everyone’s strategic concerns.

There are other areas where the benefits of regional cooperation are more clearly evident. These include counter-terrorism, anti-money laundering, education to fight against extremist ideologies and other transnational crimes. In addition, we can seek from our partners more access to modern technologies and know-how to confront the negative effects of climate change, address extreme weather, and handle marine ocean pollution, over-fishing and the depletion of maritime resources and to clean up our cities.

On the United Nations

These and many other complex issues, however, need global and not just regional management. It is for this reason that Philippine diplomacy reaches out to the international level, principally the United Nations System. We must do so even in the face of attacks against the multilateralism symbolized in the United Nations.

Attacks against the multilateralism symbolized in the United Nations are not in our favor. The United Nations and other international organizations give developing countries like the Philippines a forum where their views can be heard and where they can combine their numbers to really help shape global outcomes. We need the United Nations so that the strong and powerful might perhaps be persuaded to find their interests together with ours. At the present time, when the world order seems to be fracturing, we should reform the United Nations, not wreck it.

At any rate, the three pillars of our foreign policy—national security, economic development, protection of Filipinos overseas—are covered at different angles in our multilateral agenda centered on the UN system. National security, broadly speaking, is covered by the UN’s efforts in nuclear disarmament, other arms control, counter-terrorism, counter-illegal narcotics and prevention of other transnational crimes.
Socio-economic development must remain to be a major focus of the Philippines in the international realm. We are drawing ever closer to the global economy beyond ASEAN. What happens overseas matters increasingly to our country. We cannot act as passive onlookers. We must maintain a vigorous presence in all the rule and norm setting international bodies including WTO, UNCTAD and WIPO.

In addition, the Philippines must continue its involvement in the United Nations system both in established and new areas for cooperation, such as closing the digital divide and managing the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. The purpose of this is to keep abreast of developments, to have a say in the global governance of these issues and to tap fresh sources of knowledge, expertise, capacity building and assistance from the UN’s technical agencies.