GOOD NEIGHBOR POLICY OF A WEAK DEMOCRATIC STATE: ARTICULATIONS, INITIATIVES, AND PRACTICE IN PHILIPPINE FOREIGN RELATIONS

By NOEL M. MORADA, Ph.D.

The study describes and examines the Philippines’ good neighbor policy in the conduct of its foreign relations. Specifically, it identifies some foreign policy articulations, initiatives, and practices across a range of issues and concerns that may be linked to good neighbor principles. The study used formal statements by Philippine officials and pertinent documents, as well as media reportage on a number of relevant initiatives of the Philippines in its foreign relations.

The paper basically argues that the Philippines’ efforts to promote good neighbor policy across a number of issues in the region reflect its desire to project its image and role as a democratic state, albeit a weak one. As a democratic state, it has been consistent in its foreign policy articulations and initiatives that pertain to promoting democratic norms and values in ASEAN, but which are not necessarily shared by other ASEAN members. Even so, Filipino leaders since the ouster of Marcos in 1986 have been unwavering in promoting such democratic principles as exemplified in the country’s position on Myanmar/Burma issue, the creation of a regional human rights body, and pushing for a convention on protection of migrant workers. Meanwhile, the weak military capability of the Philippine state has forced it to adopt a strategy of promoting good neighbor norms and principles by calling for a code of conduct among claimant states in the South China Sea partly aimed at constraining the behavior of a rising power like China.

Overall, the adoption of good neighbor principle as part of foreign policy involves the promotion of shared values, respect for common interests, and the importance of cooperation among states. For democratic states, in particular, good neighbor policy also aims to promote certain norms, such as rule of law, good governance, and the promotion and protection of human rights. It also underscores the importance of conflict prevention and peace building, creation of regional norms, as well as addressing the root causes of international terrorism.

A number of statements by Filipino government officials – such as those by the president and foreign affairs secretary – have articulated good neighbor principles in Philippine foreign policy and relations. Primarily, these statements were made in the context of the Philippines being a member of ASEAN.

The study finds that, in general, the articulation and practice of good neighbor principles in Philippine foreign policy essentially reflect the legitimate interests of a democratic state that attempts to contribute to norm building in the region. However, given its internal weaknesses and limited capabilities, the Philip-pines would have to rely on the support of other democratic states in the region as it advocates democratic and people-centered principles in building an ASEAN Community and the larger East Asian Community.