Philippine undersecretary of defense Lorenzo Batino said April 11 that negotiators had reached “consensus on key points” of a new deal to allow a greater U.S. rotational military presence in the Philippines. But this raises a dilemma for Philippine lawmakers attempting to define and craft “an independent and nationalistic” foreign policy.
At what point should a country compromise its sovereignty in order to accommodate global and regional security concerns? Is seeking security alliances for protection from external aggressions a threat to sovereignty? At the crux of this dilemma is a provision in the 1987 Philippine Constitution that prohibits the establishment of foreign military bases and foreign combat operations in the country.
One of the overarching principles of the Philippine Constitution is to uphold and promote the territorial integrity of the country. As an archipelago with over 7,000 islands and a porous border to secure and protect, the Philippines is vulnerable to external aggression. With China’s aggressive encroachments in the South China Sea, seeking defense cooperation agreements with the United States and other allies — Japan, Australia, South Korea, and ASEAN countries — should be foremost in the minds of Philippine lawmakers. Without such security partnerships, the Philippines won’t be able to defend and protect itself against a belligerent neighbor.