US, PH: Shared History, Dynamic Future
Manila, February 8 – U.S., Filipino, and regional scholars came together to reaffirm the longstanding partnership between the two countries and explore new areas of cooperation. The February 7-8 conference on The Future of the U.S. – Philippines Bilateral Relationship was organized by The Asia Foundation and Ateneo School of Government, and funded by the U.S. government. U.S. Ambassador Sung Y. Kim opened the conference alongside Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Enrique Manalo and Department of Defense Undersecretary Cardozo Luna.
“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 conference included eight panel sessions covering security, economic, and cultural ties. While there was some reference to past, panelists and participants debated new ideas to carry the relationship forward in the years ahead.
The first session examined the Future of the U.S.-Philippine Military Alliance and featured former U.S. Ambassador Thomas Hubbard, Professor Renato de Castro of De La Salle University, and Mr. Victor Andres ‘Dindo’ Manhit of Stratbase Institute. 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, with the founder and executive director of the Institute of Policy Analysis and Conflict in Jakarta Dr. Sidney Jones, Mr. Ariel Hernandez of the Balay Mindanaw Foundation, and Ms. Amina Rasul-Bernardo of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy. The panel discussion 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 panel noted the necessity of local approaches to combating violent extremism, and the role of advocacy and cohesive national level policies.
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. Moderated by Professor Jennifer Oreta of Ateneo, this panel consisted of Dr. Aileen Baviera of the University of the Philippines, Mr. Michael Mazza of the American Enterprise Institute, and Ms. Olivia Enos of the Heritage Foundation.
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. Dr. Patrick Cronin of the Hudson Institute moderated the panel, which featured Dr. Satu Limaye of the East West Center, Professor Jay Batongbacal of the University of the Philippines, and Dr. John Wood of U.S. Pacific Command.
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, panelists Mr. John Philip “Sunny” Sevilla, formerly Commissioner for the Bureau of Customs, Professor Vu Minh Khuong of the National University of Singapore, and Mr. Kelly Bird of the Asian Development Bank discussed economic trends and infrastructure development. This panel was moderated by Professor Toby Melissa Monsod of the University of the Philippines, and 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.
Trade, Business, and Investment were discussed. This 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 TPP and other potential agreements, and how ASEAN might play a role. The importance of people to people ties, business to business ties, and key sectors of engagement were also examined, both in present form and for how they might grow in the future. Mr. Coco Alcuaz of the Makati Business Council moderated this panel. Speakers featured Ambassador Jose Antonio, Founder of Century Properties and Director of the US-PH Society, Former Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry Mr. Adrian Cristobal, Jr., and Mr. Charles Freeman, Senior Vice President, Asia, of the United States Chamber of Commerce.
The importance of technological advancement and innovation was outlined in Technology and Industry: Perspectives and Areas of U.S.-Philippines Growth. Speakers examined how technology can propel development and create jobs in the Philippines, cultivating a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and how Silicon Valley and other tech hubs in the U.S. could share lessons learned for startup developing in the Philippine. The panel for this session included Mr. Dado Banatao of the Philippine Development Foundation, Ms. Christina Laskowski, President of the Science & Technology Advisory Council – Silicon Valley (STAC SV), and Ms. Katrina Chan of QBO Innovation Hub.
Concluding the conference with a look to the future, Emerging Leaders in U.S.-Philippines Relations tapped into a youthful perspective on the bilateral relationship and opportunities for the next generation to write the next chapters in our shared history. Panelists included Mr. Emil Tapnio of PhilDev, Mr. Mark Yee of Youthworks PH, Mr. Paterno Esmaquel of Rappler, Ms. Yasmira Moner of the Mindanao State University, Mr. Lakhi Siap of the Filipino American Young Leaders Program, and Ms. Angela Zafra of the Strategia Development Research Institute.