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‘Middle power’: With gains in military capability, Philippines ranks 16th in Asia Power Index

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
âMiddle powerâ: With gains in military capability, Philippines ranks 16th in Asia Power Index
This year’s joint activities are expected to be bigger, considering the expansion of coverage of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) to include four more Philippine military bases where US forces can operate on a temporary basis.
Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines ranked 16th out of a list of 26 countries in Australian Lowy Institute’s 2023 Asia Power Index. 

The index measures power based on its resources – such as economic and military capability, resilience, among others – and the influence it has over other states, non-state actors and international events. The United States retained its top spot with China trailing by a few score points, followed by Japan, India and Russia. 

While the Philippines maintained its rank from the 2021 edition of the index, its overall score declined by 0.4 points to 12.8 from 13.1 out of 100. This is far behind the US' score of 80.7, China's 72.5, and Japan's 37.2 score.

“The Philippines’ strongest measure is defense networks, where it places ninth, reflecting the extent of its bilateral military cooperation with treaty ally the United States,” the Lowy Institute noted. 

The score for defense networks is measured by a country’s regional alliances, its global defense partnerships and its regional defense diplomacy. 

RELATED: 'Stronger military, alliances needed to complement talks on West Philippine Sea'

Military capability

The index also noted that the Philippines’ military capability has improved two places in the 26-country ranking to place at 17th. The Lowy Institute said the country inched up its future resources score or the measurement for its “projected distribution of future economic, military, and demographic resources.” 

“The Philippines exerts more influence in the region than expected given its available resources, as indicated by the country’s positive power gap score,” the think tank said. 

When it comes to arms trade, the institute reported that South Korea is the Philippines’ “most significant” arms trade partner with deals worth around $692 million. The US comes in second with $384 million, followed by Indonesia with $180 million, and Australia with $16 million, and trading numbers with Japan total $6 million.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is currently undertaking a modernization program, with countries such as France, Israel, and India offering to give new technology to the country.

RELATED: France says ready to help Philippine Navy with dream of having submarines | Enhancing defense relations, Israel shares anti-drone expertise with PHL | At courtesy call on Marcos, envoy says India ready to help with AFP modernization

Gaining diplomatic influence

The Asia Power Index also reported the Philippines posted gains in diplomatic influence, which refers to a country’s diplomatic network, multilateral power and its foreign policy thrust. 

The Philippines logged a 2.0 score in diplomatic gains over the past year. The five countries the Philippines hold the most number of diplomatic dialogues are China, Australia, Cambodia, South Korea and the United States.  

Meanwhile, the countries the Philippines would hold high-level bilateral and plurilateral defense diplomacy meetings include the US, Australia, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia. 

RELATED: DFA: No details yet on 'direct line' with China on West Philippine Sea

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s visit last week paved the way for the US to reaffirm its support for its oldest treaty ally in Southeast Asia, such as promising assistance for the AFP's modernization and to expedite the implementation of their Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement by adding four more sites. 

This means US troops will soon have access to nine Philippine military facilities. 

READ: Philippines, US announce designation of four new EDCA sites

The two countries also agreed to restart joint patrols in the West Philippine Sea. 

The Lowy Institute named the US as the Philippines’ top joint training exercise partner with 47 joint exercises, followed by Indonesia with 26, Malaysia at 24, Brunei with 22 and Thailand with 21. 

PHILIPPINES DIPLOMACY

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