The Asia Foundation and Ateneo School of Government Host US-Philippines Bilateral Relationship Conference
February 8, 2019 — Scholars and policymakers across the region came together to this week to explore the longstanding partnership between the United States and the Philippines and future areas of cooperation. The February 7-8 conference, “The Future of the U.S.–Philippines Bilateral Relationship” was organized by The Asia Foundation and Ateneo School of Government, and supported by the U.S. government. U.S. Ambassador Sung Y. Kim opened the conference alongside Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Enrique Manolo and Department of Defense Undersecretary Cardoza Luna. The Asia Foundation’s Philippines Country Representative Sam Chittick and Senior Director of International Relations Programs John Brandon were featured speakers at the conference.
The bilateral relationship has long been a stable and resilient partnership, and it continues to grow. In 2016, the United States was the Philippines’ largest trading partner, second-biggest market for the Philippines’ exports, and third largest investor into the Philippines.
The two-day dialogue addressed the future of the U.S.-Philippines military alliance, maritime and border security, countering violent extremism, and broader regional challenges. Sessions examined other issues related to economic engagement, trade, competitiveness, and the close cultural and intergenerational ties that bind the two countries.
“Throughout our shared history, we have together confronted and overcome numerous challenges. Our nations are strongest when we work together as friends, partners, and allies,” said U.S. Ambassador Kim as he opened the conference at the Manila Peninsula in Makati City. “However, as we face new domestic, regional, and global challenges, we cannot rest simply on our confidence in the strength of this longstanding relationship. We need to examine and analyze what lies over the horizon to ensure that we bring to bear the most effective tools and resources to not just overcome those challenges, but to seize opportunities.”
The first session, featuring former U.S. Ambassador Thomas Hubbard, examined the Future of the U.S.-Philippine Military Alliance. This panel examined the Mutual Defense Treaty, evolution of the alliance to counter new threats, and how the U.S. and Philippine armed forces can enhance cooperation to handle future challenges.
It was followed by a session on Countering Violent Extremism, which focused on the social, developmental, and ideological factors contributing to violent extremism in the Philippines, especially the role of women not only as peacemakers and mothers, but also as leaders, teachers, fighters, and influencers.
The third session, Responding to Regional Challenges in Asia, looked broadly at regional challenges, including China’s rise and shifting strategic relationships, the connection between human rights advocacy and foreign policy, as well as how domestic political situations impact regional issues.
The final session examining security was on Maritime and Border Security. This session took a deep dive into issues around UNCLOS and international law, the ongoing dispute in the West Philippine/South China Sea, and ongoing militarization of artificial islands in international waters.
The second day of the conference focused on economic engagement. During the panel, Investing in the Future and Pushing through Middle Income Status: Areas of Cooperation, speakers analyzed the role of infrastructure in economic development, how the United States might best support the Philippines’ continued upward economic advancement, and the role of development assistance in the relationship, as the economy of the Philippines continues to grow.
The Trade, Business, and Investment session focused on a potential free trade agreement, its prospects for passage, and what this might mean for the two countries. This was contrasted to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other potential agreements, and how ASEAN might play a role.
The importance of technological advancement and innovation was outlined in Technology and Industry: Perspectives and Areas of U.S.-Philippines Growth. The panel examined technology’s role in propelling development and creating jobs in the Philippines, cultivating a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and how Silicon Valley and other tech hubs in the U.S. can share lessons.
Concluding the conference with a look to the future, Emerging Leaders in U.S.-Philippines Relations, was live streamed with university students, and tapped into a youthful perspective on the bilateral relationship and opportunities for the next generation to write the next chapters in our shared history.
The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.
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