Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation, Inc. (Pathways) held the second Track Two Observer (TTO) Discussion Forum last April 3, 2019, at One Burgundy Plaza, Quezon City. Pathways fellows Dr. Charmaine Willoughby and Dr. Jay Batongbacal were the guest speakers for the afternoon, sharing their insights on recent pressing issues.

The TTO is a network of analysts and an online database which tries to promote better utilization of Track Two expertise focusing on Philippine foreign relations and regional affairs. Through its findings, the TTO aims to identify emerging trends, cutting edge ideas and strategic assessments, and explore possible policy recommendations for the government’s consideration. The TTO Discussion Forum serves as an avenue for the analysts to meet and discuss recent developments, as well as share updates on their Track Two engagements. The forum was attended by 19 member analysts from the academe, government, and private research institutions.

Dr. Willougbhy’s presentation focused on the proposed review of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippine and the United States, which was raised by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last year. Dr. Willoughby noted the securitization of the MDT and of Philippine-US relations and argued for the need to introduce frameworks into the review of the MDT. It was noted that while there is strategic value in reviewing the treaty, especially in hedging US and China, there is also great risk considering the unpredictability of the Trump administration.

Dr. Batongbacal shared his insights on the development of negotiations on the ASEAN-China Code of Conduct (COC). Dr. Batongbacal noted the progress of the development of the COC, especially the creation of the Single Draft South China Sea COC Negotiating Text (SDNT). He also discussed previously disclosed details of the SDNT, and their possible implications should they form part of the final COC. He notes that all parties are eager for progress on the creation of the COC, though there are still major disagreements in several issues.

After these brief discussions, the participants gave updates on their respective recent Track Two engagements and shared their major take-aways, insights, and impressions from those engagements.