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Options for Philippines in West Philippine Sea dispute

July 1, 2024

MANILA – In 2013, Dr. Aileen S.P. Baviera and Jay Batongbacal released a comprehensive primer on the territorial and maritime jurisdiction disputes in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). This guide, crafted from a Filipino perspective, provided a historical background, outlined prevailing conditions, and highlighted key issues related to the disputes. It also initiated a critical discourse on the formation of a strategic foreign policy for the Philippines and recommended several foreign policy postures.

First, Baviera and Batongbacal suggested that the Philippines prioritize diplomatic efforts through international support and peaceful negotiations. Second, they emphasized the need to actively engage with Asean and other international partners to address regional stability challenges. Third, they recommended upholding international legal avenues such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) arbitration and peaceful assertion of territorial claims and maritime rights. Fourth, while supporting socioeconomic development, they advised strengthening the Armed Forces, essential for national security. Finally, they proposed a comprehensive governance approach in the WPS, encompassing maritime security, environmental protection, and disaster response.

Since the primer’s publication, the government has adopted some of the recommended foreign policy strategies, including initiating an arbitration case against China’s territorial claims in 2013, that led to a favorable ruling in 2016. With China rejecting it, however, the Duterte administration’s foreign policy shifted toward a more China-friendly stance starting in 2016. The logic behind this shift was to reduce confrontations over the South China