Academic journal article Contemporary Southeast Asia

The Role of Philippine-American Relations in the Global Campaign against Terrorism: Implications for Regional Security

Academic journal article Contemporary Southeast Asia

The Role of Philippine-American Relations in the Global Campaign against Terrorism: Implications for Regional Security

Article excerpt


When the United States called for global support to combat terrorism in the light of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks (hereafter referred to as 9/11), the Philippines immediately responded by granting the United States over-flight rights for its military aircraft. (1) The Philippines also offered Clark Air Field and Subic Bay Naval Base for use by the International Coalition Against Terrorism as transit points or staging areas for troops fighting the war against terrorism in Afghanistan. Philippine President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, even expressed a willingness to deploy Philippine troops to Afghanistan, contingent upon approval by the Philippine Congress.

American officials have praised the Philippine Government's support in the global campaign against terrorism and have described the Philippine initiative as "outstanding". The Americans even commended President Arroyo for being "very quick to speak up, very quick to take action" to help the United States fight international terrorists. (2) During the six-month anniversary of 9/11, President George W. Bush in his twenty-minute speech singled out President Arroyo for "courageously opposing the threat of terror". (3) President Arroyo was the only head of state mentioned by President Bush in this speech. To recognize Philippine support in combating terrorism, the Bush Administration promised President Arroyo that the United States would give the Philippines US$92.3 million in military equipment to bolster not only its ability to counter terrorism but also to increase its wherewithal to fight local insurgents. (4)

This exchange of mutual support is a landmark in Philippine-American relations as it revives the once ailing security alliance between the two countries. When the Americans closed their bases in the Philippines as a result of the termination of the Military Bases Agreement (MBA) in 1991, Philippine-American relations hit their lowest point, with the security relationship being practically moribund.

President Arroyo's full support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism and strong commitment to the United States in combating the terrorist network in Southeast Asia reinvigorated Philippine-American ties. This prompted one American security analyst to describe the Philippines as an American "front-line state in the war on terrorism". (5) What are the implications of reinvigorated Philippine-American relations for regional security? This article will examine the role of Philippine-American relations in the global campaign against terrorism and its implications for the security of Southeast Asia.

A Historical Background to Relations

Philippine relations with the United States have played an important role in the security of not only Southeast Asia but also the entire Asia-Pacific region. Those relations began as early as 1898 when Filipino and American troops collaborated against Spain, which had been the colonial master of the Philippines for 333 years. Then President Emilio Aguinaldo responded to the request of Commodore George Dewey to provide Filipino assistance against a "common enemy". Dewey provided arms and supplies to Filipino forces while Aguinaldo sent manpower to fight Spanish forces. (6)

In the aftermath of the Spanish--American War, a vanquished Spain ceded the Philippines to the Americans in the Treaty of Paris. That Treaty became the basis of American rule in the Philippines. With the Treaty of Paris, the United States established colonial control of the Philippines based on the American perception that the Philippines was an important strategic outpost in the Asia-Pacific. (7) Even then, U.S. President William McKinley viewed the Philippines as a strategic country with strong potential in servicing the United States' commercial and naval needs. (8) American businessmen also saw the Philippines as a strategic gateway to the rich markets of Asia, and a hub for American trading activity in the Asia-Pacific region. …

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