The Asia Pacific Pathways Foundation Inc. and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung – Philippines conducted a Track Two Observer (TTO) webinar in July 2020 to assess the current challenges and opportunities confronting the Philippines in light of the shifts in regional security. Key changes were driven by the devastating impact of COVID-19, the waning influence of regional multilateral institutions, and the intensifying US-China competition. The centerpiece of the discussion revolved around the developments surrounding the “independent foreign policy” of the Duterte administration, specifically the abrupt postponement of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the United States and the Philippines.
This memo outlines the challenges, opportunities, and recommendations that can be the basis for evaluating the trajectory of the independent foreign policy, given the influx of dramatic changes unfolding within and beyond the Philippines. Participants from government agencies and nongovernmental institutions examined the current foreign policy direction of the Duterte administration and its implications towards international defense engagements and the COVID-19 global pandemic.