The Foreign Service Institute (FSI), the Office of Strategic Studies and Strategy Management (OSSSM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the National Defense College (NDCP) of the Philippines organized the 8th Heneral Luna Colloquium with the theme “Diversifying the Philippines’ Defense Partnerships: Implications for AFP Modernization and Philippine Foreign Policy” held on 10 May 2018 at the Carlos P. Romulo Library, Department of Foreign Affairs.
Guest speaker Prof. Clarita R. Carlos of the University of the Philippines highlighted that the Philippines faces various forms of security challenges. Military threats include the weaponization of some artificial islands in the South China Sea that increase incidents of confrontation and conflict. Non-military threats are those that are transnational in nature, such as terrorism, trafficking, food insecurity, and water crisis, among others. She noted that in order to address these challenges, increased cooperation, standardization, and harmonization in the realm of security are necessary.
It was in this context that Prof. Carlos discussed the importance of regional integration, particularly through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Political-Security Community. ASEAN’s role as a vital partner of the Philippines in combating transnational crimes and maintaining peace and stability in the region cannot be overemphasized. Aside from ASEAN, Prof. Carlos noted the increasing need for the Philippines to conclude status of forces agreements (SOFA) with other armed forces such as those of Russia, Japan, and China in dealing with soft security issues such as humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR). She added that the Philippines should welcome all partners in pursuing low levels of cooperation and use this to incrementally build trust that can spillover to more sensitive issue areas.
As discussant, Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. stated that the administration’s reiteration of an independent foreign policy, as enshrined in the Philippine Constitution, has also given opportunities to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to diversify its military engagements. The Philippines is now engaging more with its neighbors and is looking into new and non-traditional partners. The country’s military engagement with Singapore is being revitalized. Likewise, a SOFA that focuses on HADR is being negotiated with Japan. India has also expressed its interest to train with the AFP. Although there are risks in collaborating with non-traditional partners, he argued that the benefits will outweigh those risks.
The colloquium was attended by members of the diplomatic corps, the military, officials and staff from the DFA and other government agencies, and university students.