Australia Philippines Relations: Connecting the Spokes

Summary

This policy brief considers the Comprehensive Partnership between Australia and the Philippines and explores opportunities for both nations to build on the positive trajectory of their relationship in the face of regional geopolitical competition. Key recommendations offered would enhance cooperation between the two nations in four priority issue areas: i) cooperation in an era of strategic competition; ii) regional maritime security; iii) counter- terrorism activities; iv) trade, investment and economic relations.

These recommendations are informed by dialogue among policy-makers, scholars and practitioners at the Philippines-Australia Dialogue, jointly convened by Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress (APPFI) and the Griffith Asia Institute (GAI) in Manila on 18-19 July 2019. Overall, findings indicate that deeper cooperation between Canberra and Manila can be achieved within the framework of the existing partnership, and that opportunities exist for both nations to further engage Washington and other like-minded partners to advance an inclusive regional order. Timing is of the essence. Positive sentiment, particularly in the post-Marawi era will enable deeper bilateral engagement in priority areas, although if not seized quickly the opportunity may pass.

China has been changing the geopolitical landscape of the South China Sea (SCS) through its “gray zone” strategy – a gradualist, revisionist, and unconventional approach to altering the regional and international order in accordance with Chinese national interests. Usually, a “gray zone” campaign is composed of aggressive and hostile activities that lie below the threshold of war, thereby constraining resort to a stronger response from strategic actors.1 Using a different perspective, an omnidirectional approach using all instruments of national power can be gleaned from China’s campaign in the SCS. This strategic design follows the principles of “unrestricted warfare” and uses “all means, including armed force or nonarmed force, military and non-military, and lethal and non-lethal means to compel the enemy to accept one's interests”.2

Strategic Insight is a collection of original commentaries by APPFI’s in-house analysts covering 2019 developments in Philippine foreign relations. The individual essays have been published and may also be accessed on the Commentaries section on this website.

Strategic Insight is a collection of original commentaries by APPFI’s in-house analysts covering 2019 developments in Philippine foreign relations. The individual essays have been published and may also be accessed on the Commentaries section on this website.