Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 08:15 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 08:15 | SYDNEY

Southern Philippines: Looking outwards


Malcolm Cook

30 July 2012 11:21

Steve Rood's latest writing on the stop-start peace process in the Southern Philippines contains this very interesting take on why there may be a greater chance that the present 'start phase' may stop with a political solution this time.

At the same time there is the increasing urgency of attaining a 'minimum credible defense' against external pressures. What began as a general discussion in PNoy's [President Benigno Aquino III] first State of the National Address in 2010 of the need to bolster the navy has morphed into a focus on disputes with China in the West Philippine/South China Sea. In that light, a 'rebalancing' away from expenditures on domestic insurgencies to territorial defense lends a strong practical aspect to peace talks.

Rising concerns with the regional security order and the growing military capabilities and assertiveness of the People's Republic of China is leading Asia Pacific powers from the US to Japan to India to Australia to commit to bolstering their air and naval capabilities. For the large archipelagic states of Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Indonesia (both involved in maritime territorial disputes with the PRC), a 'rebalancing' away from the army could have four distinct benefits:

  • Reducing the historically embedded role of the army in domestic politics and law and order issues.
  • If Rood is right, creating a powerful strategic imperative for Manila and Jakarta to seek lasting political solutions to long-running domestic insurgencies.
  • Over time, aligning their force structures much more with their archipelagic geographies and extensive maritime territories.
  • Providing more scope for the Philippines and Indonesia to engage with the growing number of naval cooperation opportunities.

For more on the peace process in the Southern Philippines, read my report for the Lowy Institute.

Photo by Flickr user Kat