PHILIPPINE FOREIGN RELATIONS: A HISTORICAL REVIEW OF FOREIGN POLICY OBJECTIVES

By ROWENA R. PANGILINAN

This essay traces the development of Philippine foreign relations by examining the country’s foreign policy objectives since 1946. In addressing this question, several other points of inquiry emerge: How can one characterize Philippine for-eign relations in the past six decades? Were the country’s foreign policy objectives evolving in relation to the different milestones in Philippine history, particularly following 1946 (independence), 1972 (beginning of Martial Law), 1986 (post-EDSA Revolution), and 1991 (after the closure of US military bases)? In what ways have foreign policy objectives differed over the years and what accounts for these changes?

Materials used for this essay include pronouncements of various Presi-dents, Foreign Affairs Secretaries and other officials over the decades. These were complemented by interviews conducted during the first half of 2008 with practitio-ners and stakeholders. Other references include writings by scholars of interna-tional relations, historians and Filipino foreign policymakers. While the evolution of foreign policy objectives can be identified based on such sources, the assessment of whether such objectives or aims were realized would require a more systematic examination of events during the various periods under consideration; that lies beyond the scope of this paper.

In the early decades of post-war Philippines, relations with the United States defined its foreign relations. The “special” RP-US relations were carried out in the most comprehensive manner realizable, covering political, economic, cultural and security aspects. Domestic realities at the time, specifically the emphasis on post-war rehabilitation and reconstruction, meant that United States would play a significant role, since it emerged as the most powerful country following the Second World War.

Still, most administrations recognized the importance of developing relations with neighbors that were just emerging from colonization, as well as with other countries where strategic interests could be pursued. Quirino thus kept an open mind about China, following Communist victory over the Nationalists. Marcos forged ties with PRC and Eastern European states in the light of the oil crisis, Communist insurgency, and the need for export markets.

The Garcia Presidency affected the country’s international trade through its “Filipino First” Policy, while the older Macapagal chose to lift exchange and import controls as the country moved towards free markets; neither succeeded in securing stable growth or equitable distribution of wealth. Marcos and Ramos came into office with clear visions of what the Philippine state should be, helping to de-fine the directions of diplomacy. Marcos had his New Society, and tried to get significant aid and investments for this goal, while Ramos employed a comprehensive Economic Diplomacy agenda which was a significant component of his trade liberalization strategy. Corazon Aquino sought to help spread democratic ideals by forging relations with other democratic states.

Solidum, writing in 1982, argued that Philippine foreign policy was trans-forming in major ways as a result of altered perceptions of international developments, particularly those affecting Southeast Asia. She asserted that the conduct of Philippine foreign policy was changing from one that was US-centered to one that was largely affected by Asia, signifying a maturity of our Philippine foreign policy. But while relations with our neighbors have indeed significantly improved, experts interviewed for the study indicated that the country’s ears still appear well-positioned nearest to Washington.