The national security environment of the Philippines has experienced dramatic transformation since the end of World War II. This has led to changes in the country’s security policies, triggering a review and redefinition of the country’s foreign policy since the 1970s and towards the end of the Cold War. This study examines how the Philippines used its foreign relations to protect the country’s national security against external threats.

Data for the study are generated from available documents, key informant interviews and roundtable discussions. The research finds that there is a prevailing consensus that since the end of World War II, the more serious threats to the Philip-pines are internal, rather than external.

During the Cold War, the political elite adopted the US view that the principal external threat to the Philippines was communism, thus accounting for a very ideological anti-communist stance that was challenged by militant and nationalist groups, and that alienated the country from its communist/socialist and non-aligned East Asian neighbors. This began to change only after 1971 when China became a member of the UN and the UN Security Council, and more so after 1991 when the US cut-off its defense assistance to the country following the refusal of the Philippine Senate to ratify the Philippines-US Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Security (TFCS).

As a state located in East Asia, the Philippines was also active in the formation of the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). There are moreover ef forts to have close security relations with other countries, including China and the ASEAN member-countries. Overall, however, the security mindset of the Philippine political elite remained wedded to the belief that the best way to enhance the external security of the country is by having close defense relations with the United States. This was seen in the Congressional debates on the proposed Philippines-US TFCS, the Philippines-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the Philippines-US Mutual Logistic and Support Agreement (MLSA) and more recently, in the efforts of the incumbent Aquino Administration to secure firm security guarantees from the US should China continue its “bullying tactics” in the disputed South China Sea.

Until the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, key national security officials continued to espouse the traditional view of security, giving less attention to non-traditional security issues (e.g. global warming, environmental degradation, drug trafficking, pandemic diseases, energy insecurity, maritime piracy, etc.) As the country will be confronted more by non-traditional security issues in the future, there is a need for the Philippines to develop the needed expertise to address such issues in the foreign service. There is also a need to review the hiring of retired AFP generals as diplomats.

In addition, the Philippines should exert all efforts to have a more balanced foreign policy and defense policy. Close defense relations with the US, while it has advantages, also enhances vulnerability and diminishes the country’s capability to assert national sovereignty.