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Opinion

What's the Philippine foreign policy on the Asia Pacific?

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

One of the salient topics in our lecture series here in Europe is a comparative analysis of ASEAN member nation's foreign policy. That means a matrix among the declared foreign policies of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos PDR, Myanmar, and Brunei. Of course, I am the one handling the Philippines, being the only Filipino among 17 academics, researchers, and professors of Law, Foreign Relations and Humanities.

The Philippine Constitution is clear and explicit that our country renounces war as an instrument of national policy and we adopt the generally-accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land. Our nation and people do adhere to a policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation, and amity with all nations. It is also provided that the Philippine shall pursue an independent foreign policy in relation with other states. The paramount consideration of our foreign policies shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interests, and the right to self-determination. That is explicitly expressed and enshrined under the Constitution's Declaration of Principles and State Policies.

Of course under Article VII of the same Constitution, the president is the chief architect of our foreign policy. He has taken an oath to preserve and defend the Constitution. And relative to territorial integrity, and national sovereignty, the Constitution provides that the national territory comprises the Philippine archipelago, with all the islands and waters embraced therein, and all other territories under which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction, consisting of the terrestrial, fluvial and aerial domains including its territorial seas, the seabed, the subsoil, and other submarine areas. The waters around, between and connecting the islands of the archipelago, regardless of their breadth and dimension, form part of the territorial waters of the Philippines.

For these reasons, the president is duty-bound to defend our territories, considering that he is the commander-in-chief of all the armed forces. He controls the police forces and has the power to call on all the citizens to stand in defense of our sovereignty and territorial integrity. He cannot compromise on the exclusive economic zones and territorial waters of our country. He is duty-bound to uphold the arbitral ruling against China, and should undertake any and all actions precisely to defend every inch of the Philippine territory, as he explicitly declared in his first SONA.

There is no other public official who is accountable to the sovereign Filipino people because the public officials and personnel and all units of government are manned by his appointees and the national agencies are under his control and supervision.

The three pillars of Philippine foreign policy are first, promoting national security. We have an existing mutual defense treaty with the US. Thus we cannot pretend that we are neutral relative to the conflicts between Washington and Beijing. We have expanded our defense and security engagements with other nations like South Korea, New Zealand, France, Italy, and Spain. We have a Visiting Forces Agreement not only with the US but also with Australia. We also have a working agreement with Japan to strengthen our maritime security. Thus, it is hypocritical to deny that we are against China in its relentless incursions into our territories. Unlike Taiwan, we have never been a province of China and do not have the faintest dream to become its vassal. The president should make this categorical, explicit, and unequivocal.

The second pillar of our foreign policy is protection of our nationals and we have no less than 200,000 in Taiwan. The third is economic security and trade. We are a trading and economic partner of Taiwan. In fact we have a MECO, a Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei, Kaohsiung, and Taichung. I was deployed there for three years. And Taipei has a TECO or Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office in Manila. These are virtual embassies. And so, are we really honest when we say that we respect the one China policy? I am not making conclusions. I am only asking. May we hear from the Department of Foreign Affairs?

FOREIGN POLICY

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