Myanmar’s military coup on Feb. 1 is a matter of great concern to both the country itself and to Southeast Asia as a region. Following the Nov. 8, 2020, general election, the coup appears to be an attempt to reverse the landslide victory of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party in both the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament..

In November 2020, the Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation Inc. (APPFI) and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung hosted a Track Two Observer (TTO) webinar to examine the prospects of Southeast Asia’s economic recovery while reeling from the recession brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants from government agencies, the academe, and other non-government institutions came together and discussed the effects of COVID-19 on ASEAN regional economic cooperation and the efforts being carried out to mitigate and help in the region’s economic recovery.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on the Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to resume discussions on the South China Sea Code of Conduct (COC) at the start of September 2020, months after a lull in negotiations due to the global coronavirus pandemic. With the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) imposed 2021 deadline for the COC looming, ASEAN Member States are under pressure to have substantial progress towards finalizing the COC, while still grappling with the health crisis within their borders.

The Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress, with the support of the Philippine Office of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, organized a Track Two Observer Discussion Forum to look back at the recent developments in the South China Sea (SCS) and how other claimant states, specifically Vietnam and Malaysia, have responded to thorny issues with other states, as well as their perspectives and expectations in the ongoing discussions for the COC. This policy brief highlights the developments in the SCS, focusing on friction incidents between claimant states, the long process towards the creation of a SCS COC, and the myriad issues that continue to plague the process. 

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.