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Spratlys > Collection Index > Reviews > Book Reviews

The South China Sea Dispute in Philippine Foreign Policy, problems, challenges and prospects

by Noel M. Novicio

In this book, the author examines the foreign policy options taken by the Philippines in managing its claim in the South China Sea dispute. The author argues that what emerges is a dramatic shift in Philippine foreign policy decisions following the discovery of Chinese military structures on Mischief Reef.

The arguments presented in the study suggest that a careful analysis of Philippine strategy will yield the following conclusions.

First, while the Philippines has used diplomacy as an initial avenue to settle the dispute, it is clear that this option has paid little dividend.

Second, the reginal response to the Mischief Reef cas has revealed sharp divisions within ASEAN. ASEAN solidarity on the dispute is fragile and cracks are beginning to show. The hope of the Philippines that a perceived threat from China could engender greater ASEAN unity has been unrealsitic.

Finally, as a direct consequence to the ineffectiveness of diplomatic initiatives, the Philippines is increasingly looking towards restoring defence cooperation with the United States as a way of checking Chinese moves in the South China Sea.The Philippines has ratified a Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States in 1999, a necessary step for the restoration of bilateral military alliance. A strong U.S. naval presence in the background is definitely a strong stopgap until such a time the Philippines develops its military capability and economic strength to deter aggressors. The Mischief crisis has also caused the Philippines to embark on a modernization programme for its armed forces to produce a better-equipped military for its external defence.

In this study, the author also points out that "the Philippines is trying to "internationalise" the issue ass much as it can, possibly with the quiet support of Vietnam. If Maila can keep the issue on the headlines and if ASEAN can get its act together, Beijing, which has all along opposed multilateral talks on the Spratlys issue, may have to concede. Bilateral discussions such as those between the Philippines and China do not apppear to have resulted in any concrete results so far. It is evident that only a united ASEAN can possibly move China, as in 1995."

collected in spratlys.org on 19 July, 2003