This is in response to Dr. Peter Chalk’s commentary, “PRC Influence Operations in the Philippines: Can Beijing Flip the South China Sea Script?,” that was published in the May 19 issue of China Brief by the Jamestown Foundation.

The commentary made the disturbing claim that three Philippine organizations are linked to the so-called united front work (UFW) – apparently used here to refer to a broad range of activities purportedly aimed at advancing the Chinese Communist Party’s interests abroad.

Without providing a shred of evidence, Dr. Chalk described the organizations as “pseudo-strategic think tanks in Manila that promote one-sided analyses and commentaries supporting President Xi’s Indo-Pacific maritime policies—and issue pejorative critiques of those who dismiss his agenda.” One organization, the 35-year-old Philippine Association for Chinese Studies, has already issued its statement on the matter.

Another organization Dr. Chalk mentioned was “Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Association”. He must be referring to the Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation, Inc. or APPFI.

We take exception to the flagrant misrepresentation of APPFI’s work. APPFI is an independent foreign policy think tank that was established in 2014 to promote peace, development, and cultural understanding among peoples of the Philippines and the Asia Pacific through research, international dialogue, and cooperation.

APPFI’s original flagship program focuses on China and Philippines-China relations. Our China Program stands on two pillars: (1) promoting better understanding among Philippine stakeholders of the implications of China’s emerging role in East Asia and the world, and (2) strengthening civil society linkages and Track Two diplomacy between these two neighboring countries. Since then, we have also taken on other themes: Regional Security Architecture; Regional Integration and Connectivity; and, Maritime Development and Security.

Along these four lines, APPFI has partnered with policy-oriented and academic institutions in the Philippines and from other countries near and far, including those from China, Japan, Australia as well as the US and Europe. In 2018, APPFI became the Philippine member of the ASEAN Institutes for Strategic and International Studies (ASEAN-ISIS), a network of leading think tanks in Southeast Asia.

APPFI’s founding President and CEO, the late Dr. Aileen S.P. Baviera, was a respected Filipino academic and renowned China expert. She was a former dean of and professor at University of the Philippines’ Asian Center. One of our Senior Fellows was the late Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta Romana, veteran journalist, former Beijing Bureau Chief of ABC News, and former Philippine Ambassador to China. Our past and current fellows are distinguished scholars and diligent analysts in their respective fields.

As geopolitical rivalry intensifies and territorial and maritime rows simmer, it has become easy to overly securitize and politicize issues. It becomes expedient to label and dismiss individuals and organizations that critically engage dominant narratives or partisan analyses. Dr. Chalk’s commentary, which labels policy debates and critical discourse as “ideological or political warfare,” suffers from this infirmity.

Nevertheless, in an increasingly polarized atmosphere, efforts to offer independent, balanced, and nuanced analyses of the issues become more urgent. APPFI believes that frank, open, and free exchange of ideas is integral to democratic discourse. Giving full play to different perspectives on and approaches to issues contributes to the crafting of more informed and innovative public policies.

APPFI stands for an independent foreign policy and a peaceful, multilateral solution to the West Philippine Sea disputes. We support academic and think-tank exchanges and Track 2 diplomacy with counterparts from the region and beyond.

Dr. Chalk’s commentary maligned APPFI. Its spurious claims, however, only serve to fortify our resolve to honor our founder’ legacy and strive harder to pursue our organization’s vision and mandate.

Antoinette R. Raquiza, PhD
Vice President
Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation