Beneath the Bragadoccio: PH-US Security Relations in the Post-Truth Era


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When: Jul 19 2017 - 3:00pm until Jul 19 2017 - 4:30pm
Where: 1819 L St NW, Sixth Floor Conference Room, Washington DC, 20036

Beneath the Bragadoccio: PH-US Security Relations in the Post-Truth Era

An Asia Pacific Foreign Policy and Defense Seminar featuring:

Jay L. Batongbacal
Director, Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea,
University of the Philippines Law Center

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. Image: Presidential Communications Operations Office

The election of Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte instigated a major dis-orientation in Philippine-US security relations. Barely a month into his Presidency, the UNCLOS Annex VII Tribunal promulgated a decision overwhelmingly in favor of the Philippines in the arbitration it initiated against China over maritime rights and jurisdictions in the South China Sea. Duterte’s response was initially ambivalent: he sought a “soft landing” with China on the ruling and broke the ice between the two countries. In the following months, however, his rhetoric bombastically proclaimed a “separation” from the US and alignment with China and Russia as he basked in the glow of China’s promises for billions of dollars worth of infrastructure projects. This was followed by increasingly anti-US tirades that cast doubt on the continuity of the historic Philippine-US defense relationship, additional bashing of other traditional Western allies like Australia and the EU, and conspicuous moves to cultivate military relations with China and Russia.

The Marawi Crisis that began in June 2017, however, palpably changed President Duterte’s tune. When the Abu Sayyaf and Maute armed groups converged on Marawi City in Mindanao and staged an Islamic State-inspired uprising, US military support in the form of aerial reconnaissance and Special Forces technical assistance was called upon and used by the Armed Forces to wage urban warfare. President Duterte feigned ignorance of calling for US military assistance, and went into uncharacteristic seclusion as the fighting intensified. Australia also offered two surveillance aircraft to join the efforts. Only belatedly, as the armed groups weakened, did he find an opportunity to meekly tout his new security relationship with China by accepting a donation of assault weapons, sniper rifles, and ammunition.

These and other events paint a perplexing picture of Philippine security relations and strategy overall under President Duterte, and cast an unflattering shadow over his security and foreign policy. Jay Batongbacal will discuss recent developments in the Philippines’ internal and external security situation, and attempt to shed some light in order to understand the Philippines’ current situation.

Wednesday, July 19
3:00 P.M. – 4:30 P.M.
This event was off-the-record.

East-West Center in Washington
1819 L St, NW, Washington, DC. Sixth Floor Conference Room
This event is free and open to the public.

Jay L. Batongbacal is a lawyer from the Philippines with the degrees of Master of Marine Management and Doctor in the Science of Law, both from Dalhousie University in Canada. Since 1997, he has done diverse work in maritime affairs, including community based fisheries management, coastal resource management, marine environment protection, maritime boundaries, high seas fishing, offshore energy, seafaring, and shipping. He was legal advisor to the Philippine delegation that successfully pursued the Philippines’ claim to a continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the Benham Rise Region before the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. He is also among the List of Experts on Marine Scientific Research for purposes of Special Arbitration under Annex VIII of the UNCLOS. Presently, he serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law, and concurrently Director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea of the U.P. Law Center.

Primary Contact Info:
Name: Sarah Wang
Phone: 2023279755