Not in the same boat? Perspectives on the Australia-Philippines Defense Partnership

The 2024 Lowy Institute poll For most Australians, the Philippines is not considered a viable security partner. Only 2% of respondents chose the Philippines to establish closer security ties with Australia, ranking last on the list of six countries.

Given the recent acceleration in political and security engagements between Canberra and Manila, the Philippines’ low ranking is surprising. In September 2023, the countries upgraded relations from „comprehensive” to „”.Strategic partnership”, with security a key pillar for enhanced collaboration. In November, Australia and the Philippines played their first match joined Patrolling the South China Sea. In February this year, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. addressed the Australian Parliament, becoming the first Philippine president to do so.

But instead Australians looked to Japan, which topped the list as the country of choice for closer security ties (45%), followed by India (18%), Indonesia (14%), France (12%) and South Korea (5%) ) Australia- The results demonstrate the gap between perceptions and reality in Philippine security partnerships.

The low ranking of the Philippines may also be attributed to its perception of being a net recipient and not a contributor to regional security.

There may be several reasons why Japan and India rank higher than the Philippines. First, Japan and India are members of the Quad, which includes Australia and the United States, to address security, economic and health issues. Those four Quad Members are beginning to work together to address the perceived erosion of the international order, so Japan and India are perhaps the most familiar names among Australians in the context of security. (Despite last year’s referendum showed (12% of Australians have never heard of a quad, and 11% have no sight.)

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This year, Australians are strongly positive towards Japan across a number of indicators, including ranking Japan as „Australia’s best friend in Asia” for the third year in a row. When compared to the „emotional thermometer” measured in the survey, Australians report more warmth towards Japan than the Philippines. This trust and warmth towards Japan translates into positive perceptions of Japan as Australia’s security partner.

The low ranking of the Philippines may also be attributed to its perception of being a net recipient and not a contributor to regional security. Since 2015, Washington has provided Manila with more than US$1 billion in military equipment and training Help. Canberra also provided finance and military Help In response to the Islamist insurgency in the southern part of the Philippines. So, Australians might wonder, how can the Philippines contribute to the defense partnership? Fair enough, Manila has picked up One-way steps Despite receiving foreign aid, the Philippines needs to modernize its defense capabilities.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. became the first President of the Philippines to address the Australian Parliament this year (@bongbongmarcos/x)

Despite its low ranking, the Philippines remains Australia’s most visible defense partner. Each has a shared interest in maintaining the security and stability of the maritime domain, particularly in Southeast Asia and critical waterways such as the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea.

Although Australia is geographically located outside Southeast Asia, the In total Australian exports rely on sea transport, and most of it Oil Australia uses imports from overseas suppliers, primarily from Asia. For the Philippines, an archipelagic nation of more than 7,600 islands, maritime security is essential. A recent shift in the Philippines’ defense strategy has been from an inward-looking posture to a forward-looking one Comprehensive Authority throughout its exclusive economic zone demonstrates the importance of Manila’s maritime security.

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Marcos’ speech to Parliament underscored the role of maritime security as a factor that binds Australia and the Philippines together: “Australia and the Philippines are in the same boat. We share a vision for our goal of a peaceful, secure, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific.

Yet, a peaceful, secure, stable and prosperous regional maritime domain is threatened by a common enemy. China’s assertive behavior has been directed against Australia and the Philippines throughout the Indo-Pacific region, including in the South China Sea.

China continues to harass Australian military personnel operating in international waters – as evidenced by recent experience after a Chinese warplane was shot down. Combustion In the path of an Australian helicopter, a Chinese warship used high power last year Sonar Australian marines were diving nearby. For its part, the Philippines has been embroiled with China over disputed maritime rights in the South China Sea, which has recently seen the use of Chinese vessels. Water cannons and physically colliding with Philippine vessels operating within the legally recognized exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

As Marcos said, Australia and the Philippines are really in the same boat on security issues. Closer security engagements will result in the future. And hopefully, more Australians will come to see the Philippines as an important security partner in a volatile region.

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