By Dindo Manhit
If the Philippines is to pursue an “independent” foreign policy, it may do well to take inspiration from countries that have found a middle path between the United States (US) and China. The answer may lie in not only deepening cooperation with the world’s heavyweights, but in investing in our relationships with neighbors and markets of all sizes. While the Philippines strengthens its ties with partners throughout Asia this year, it could look just further to Australia and build on the milestones on the past.
Adapting the comprehensive partnership to economic priorities
In 2015, the Philippines and Australia inked a “comprehensive partnership” with many areas of ongoing and planned cooperation: political, economic, defense, law and justice, education, and development. On the back of this partnership, Australia is the Philippines’ second largest source of grants after the US, providing US$ 567 million in 2015.
The economic component of the relationship is liable to have a higher profile moving forward. After the country netted headline-grabbing sums from the president’s trips to Beijing and Tokyo last October, the Philippines’ relationships with Japan and China have been top of mind topics when discussing our foreign relations. There has been the tendency, rightly or wrongly, for members of the government and the public to take a transactional view of foreign affairs.
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