There have been many security challenges to the Philippines, both within its borders and in the context of the Indo-Pacific region. In recent years and months, we saw an aggressive and antagonistic state’s repeated incursions into what had been established by international law as belonging to our country. Numerous incidents in the West Philippine Sea showed the brazenness and desperation of that country, resorting to tactics that ranged from pointing military-grade lasers at members of our Coast Guard, using water cannons against our vessels, installing floating barriers in our own territory, and dangerous maneuvers against Philippine vessels. Such activities have also damaged our coral reefs, endangering not only Filipinos but marine life within our bounds, and compromising the future of the next generation.
In facing these challenges, we have looked to our international partners which have given us support in many forms. They have articulated their support for our victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration and have provided much-needed opportunities to upgrade our military defense capabilities through joint exercises, shared technology, and shared best practices.
Similarly, in our pursuit of security in cyberspace, where individual, group, or state-sponsored bad actors proliferate to commit crimes for material gain, disruption, or to advance their own agenda, we can learn much from our international partners. These tech-based attackers are unseen enemies that are difficult to keep track of, much less catch and prosecute. The very nature of the internet provides the perfect opportunities for cybercrime.
We recognize, however, that robust military defense mechanisms and sophisticated cybersecurity techniques are but one aspect of security.
A more common, visible, and fundamental kind of security is economic in nature. There is economic security when individuals in a nation enjoy a stable source of income and are consistently able to meet their basic needs. No less than the President said that economic security is national security.
This is not pure rhetoric, either. When people know where their next meal is coming from, and when they can plan how they spend their own resources and enjoy the agency to set their own economic goals, that is security. When they are confident that their children can attend school and contemplate a prosperous future, that is security as well. When they go to sleep at night knowing that they have some savings put away in times of emergency or for their old age, that is security.
But how exactly do we work toward that kind of security, not only for a small segment of the Filipino population but for the majority of the people?
This was the central theme of the 2023 Pilipinas Conference of the Stratbase ADR Institute, titled “The Path Towards Economic Security: Turning Global Risks into Opportunities.” This is the eighth year the Institute has held such a conference, and last week’s event was attended, as always, by top leaders in government and the private sector as well as members of the diplomatic community.
Our panel with the ambassadors reminded us that the Philippines can only achieve prosperity through the support and cooperation of the international community. Shared prosperity results from shared responsibilities in being a true and beneficial partner to each other. It validated the results of a Stratbase-commissioned September 2023 survey by Pulse Asia that said Filipinos are keen for the Marcos Jr. administration to work with like-minded states in strengthening economic security. Indeed, with robust trade relations, the Philippines continues to elevate its ties with these countries and initiatives are expanding.
During the forum, Australian Ambassador Hae Kyong (HK) Yu PSM recognized the Philippines as a long-standing partner and highlighted the importance of sustainable long-term economic growth. She expressed optimism on the Philippine economy, stating that the country’s sound fiscal and monetary policies, good regulatory framework, and active private sector create an enabling investment environment.
British Ambassador Laure Beaufils emphasized that maintaining economic security is dependent on cooperation and partnerships, which translates to working together to protect the international rules-based economic order.
Delegation of the European Union Ambassador Luc Véron underscored the significance of simultaneously maximizing the benefits of economic partnerships and minimizing the risks from economic dependencies. The EU’s strategy, he said, is composed of three Ps: promoting competitiveness, protecting economic security, and partnering with reliable partners to address shared security concerns.
For Canadian Ambassador David Hartman, collective prosperity relies on a fair, predictable, and open international trading system. Building economic security relies on trade diversification, developing new commercial partnerships, investing in supply chain infrastructure, supporting a rules-based international trade system that is stable and inclusive, developing a robust national security review system, protecting critical infrastructure, and investing in cyber security, protecting intellectual property, technologies, and data. Collective prosperity relies on a fair, predictable and open international trading system, he said.
United States Chargé d’affaires Y. Robert Ewing, who represented Ambassador MaryKay Carlson, emphasized that economic and political stability are critical for the Indo-Pacific region to flourish. The region must be equipped to mitigate and respond to shocks ranging from territorial disputes, climate change, and energy to ensure a positive trajectory of economic growth. He reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to principles, norms, and standards of the international community to ensure a stable and prosperous region.
These assurances from our international partners were helpful as we anticipate both the risks and opportunities of 2024 and the coming years, and as we continue to pursue an investment-led growth anchored on the core democratic values of transparency and accountability, responsive public service, and the rule of law. After all, global investors will only come — and stay — if they feel that the government is keen on true governance.
Together let us work to create and maintain a sound economic environment, for sustainable growth and development, and for the shared prosperity and security of all Filipinos.
Victor Andres “Dindo” C. Manhit is the president of the Stratbase ADR Institute.