Joint Development in the West Philippine Sea: an Idea Whose Time Has Come

By Lucio Blanco Pitlo III/ March 19, 2018 / Originally posted at PACNET

A proposed joint development (JD) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) between the Philippines and China has revived debates on how best to move forward in the longstanding regional flashpoint. There should be no debate – the Philippines should enter into the JD, even if the partner is a state-owned entity, as long as it can deliver. Most importantly, JD does not necessarily impact adversely the 2016 arbitral ruling and the Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights position on the WPS. The Philippine service contract (SC) system may offer a solution for both countries and can accommodate a JD. This approach to JD can enhance the country’s energy security, create jobs, promote technology and knowledge transfer, and contribute in dispute management. Continue reading “Joint Development in the West Philippine Sea: an Idea Whose Time Has Come”

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Primacy and Balance: Trump’s China Strategy

by Lucio Blanco Pitlo III / March 16, 2018 / Originally Posted at China-US Focus

In September 2016, Zack Cooper and Jake Douglas from U.S. think-tank CSIS categorized four U.S. perspectives in dealing with China, based on an assessment of Chinese intentions and power trajectory. They presented them at a conference on the “South China Sea (SCS) in the Broader Maritime Security of the Indo-Pacific,” held in Canberra. I had the great privilege of taking part in the conference, presenting a co-authored paper on the Philippine perspective on the SCS disputes. Though it had been in circulation much earlier, the then less-used geographic term “Indo-Pacific” later received greater currency more than a year afterwards, as President Trump laid out his vision for a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” Continue reading “Primacy and Balance: Trump’s China Strategy”

China and a New Type of Global Leadership

by Lucio Blanco Pitlo III /  Originally Posted at China-US Focus / February 8, 2018

“Never forget why you started, and you can accomplish your mission,” President Xi Jinping said during his report to the 19th Communist Party (CPC) Congress last October. This resonates well at a time when China and its external environment are faced with tremendous transition challenges and uncertainties. The success of China’s reform and opening up lends affirmation to its unique syncretic politico-economic model of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Xi confidently repeated that sticking to this line, with a few fundamental tweaks, is in China’s best interest. Strong political will, continuity and efficiency brought about by one-party rule ensure speedy and sustained implementation of long term plans and reforms, although not without detrimental effects to the growth of genuine pluralism and democracy. Continue reading “China and a New Type of Global Leadership”

DPRK and Terrorism: Key Regional Security Challenges

by Lucio B. Pitlo III/ January 9, 2018 / Originally Posted at China-US Focus

Concern over the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear and missile tests and combating terrorism and extremism constitute two of the key security issues discussed in the recently concluded 31st ASEAN and Related Summits held last November in Manila. Confidence building, diplomatic engagement between key claimants and sustained negotiations for a regional Code of Conduct have soothed tensions in the South China Sea, while recent developments have brought the DPRK’s nuclear and missile tests and terrorism to the forefront. Leaders from Southeast Asia and the major powers, the U.S., China, Japan, Russia, and India, met amidst an intensifying war of words between the U.S. and the DPRK and amidst the retreat of international terrorism, with militants in Iraq (Mosul), Syria (Raqqa) and the Philippines (Marawi) being routed. Continue reading “DPRK and Terrorism: Key Regional Security Challenges”

Philippine Security Relations with the United States and Japan Under Duterte: Bending, not Breaking 

by Lucio Blanco Pitlo III/ October 10, 2017/ Originally posted at AMTI

With improved Sino-Philippine relations post-arbitration, an opening with Russia, and seemingly positive momentum on ASEAN-China Code of Conduct negotiations, one could envision a shadow looming over the Philippines’ longstanding defense cooperation with the United States and recently burgeoning cooperation with Japan. But the reality is more nuanced. With threats to sever or downgrade security relations with the United States alongside a courting of non-traditional security partners China and Russia, how will the Philippines’ security relations with established partners proceed under President Rodrigo Duterte? Continue reading “Philippine Security Relations with the United States and Japan Under Duterte: Bending, not Breaking “

No Sea-Change as ASEAN Turns 50

by Lucio Pitlo III / Aug 22, 2017

Originally Posted at China-US Focus

ASEAN meetings almost always generate expectations of raising the South China Sea (SCS) disputes to the point where the success of the meeting boils down to how tough the adopted language is in the final official statements. Considering the breadth and depth of issues covered by ASEAN in its annual meetings, such reduction is unfortunate and unfair. Continue reading “No Sea-Change as ASEAN Turns 50”

Deconstructing Duterte’s West Philippine Sea policy

by Lucio Pitlo III , June 27, 2017 / Originally posted at APPFI

President Duterte had been criticized for appearing soft in defending Philippine national interests in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), especially in the face of his decision to expand cooperation with a fellow disputant and potential external security threat. Such criticism largely rests on two key assumptions: 1) that asserting the country’s landmark victory in the 2016 arbitration decision is the best way to defend the country’s WPS interests and canvassing regional and international support is the best way to pressure China into compliance and; 2) maintaining robust or even deepening security relations with the US is the best deterrence against Chinese expansionism in the tightly contested strategic and resource-rich sea. Continue reading “Deconstructing Duterte’s West Philippine Sea policy”

Emerging Consistencies in Philippine Foreign Policy Amidst Continuing U.S.-China Frictions

by Lucio Pitlo III / Apr 27 , 2017 / Originally Posted at ChinaUSFocus

Although critics often point to the apparent discrepancies and unpredictability in Philippine foreign policy as expressed by its chief architect, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, several emerging consistencies can be gathered. In the same vein as other countries that opted not to spell out the specifics of their foreign policy strategy, especially on critical and sensitive issues, in order to have ample room for maneuver and negotiation, these incipient consistencies have yet to be formally articulated in a coherent form, more so applied in reference to a certain foreign policy priority. Although not definitive, an appreciation of some of these nascent consistencies can give one a better outlook of the continuously evolving Philippine diplomacy. Furthermore, beyond his infamous rhetoric which surely played a lot in getting him Times’ 2017 Most Influential Person Award, Duterte’s actions, by and large, resonate as regional responses to the brewing US-China tussle. Continue reading “Emerging Consistencies in Philippine Foreign Policy Amidst Continuing U.S.-China Frictions”