Executive Summary

This paper examines the perceptions of Filipino strategic studies analysts, practitioners, and officials regarding the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (known as the Quad) launched in 2017 and its attendant connection with the United States’ Free and Open Indo-Pacific project. Based on an online survey of more than 200 Filipino respondents, it asked and gauged their attitudes toward the Quad and its relevance in the current regional strategic environment, as well as its impact on the Philippines’ national security and defense policy and strategy. This paper also compared the results of our survey with existing surveys conducted by international think-tanks on the Quad and the Indo-Pacific.

The APPFI survey’s main findings are: first, there is a small majority of respondents who are familiar with the Quad as a multilateral security arrangement. Second, among the respondents who are aware of the Quad, they mostly view it as a “counterweight” to China’s increasing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific. Third, there is the majority view that the Philippines can benefit from its participation in activities related to the Quad. Specifically, a majority of the respondents believed that the Quad can manage tensions in the South China Sea and contribute to the Philippine government’s pursuit of an independent foreign policy. Finally, our survey revealed that while the Quad could potentially serve Philippine strategic interests, the respondents expressed caution that it may undermine ASEAN centrality and the ASEAN-led regional security architecture.

This paper argues that in general, variance of perceptions among Filipino security elites can be accounted for in two ways. First, disparities in Filipinos’ reception of the Quad are symptomatic of the very ambiguities of the role of the arrangement in the U.S.’ Asia strategy. Second, the varying views of Filipinos stem from a deep knowledge of domestic politics, challenges related to long-haul strategy analysis, and biases related to trust and confidence in major powers such as China and the U.S..

Based on these findings, this paper recommends that the Philippines should put to good use the trust and confidence of Filipino security elites toward all Quad members to enhance its military modernization program. Another recommendation for the Philippines is to participate in the Quad’s freedom of navigation activities while enforcing its sovereign rights through increased maritime patrols. For their part, the Quad members should be ready to step in and assist when asked by the Philippine government on matters related to maritime security and its other external security challenges. Finally, this paper recommends that the Philippines manage its expectations of the Quad as it seeks to strengthen its relations with the Quad members without inciting negative responses from China.

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