Search Penny Hill Press

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Republic of the Philippines and U.S. Interests

Thomas Lum
Specialist in Asian Affairs

The United States and the Republic of the Philippines maintain close ties stemming from the U.S. colonial period (1898-1946), the bilateral security alliance, extensive military cooperation, and common strategic and economic interests. Although the United States closed its military bases in the Philippines in 1992, the two treaty allies have continued joint military activities related to counterterrorism and maritime security. The bilateral security relationship has gained prominence as a key link in the evolving U.S. foreign policy “pivot” or “rebalancing” toward Asia, and the two sides are discussing bolstering U.S. access to Philippine military facilities. On November 16, 2011, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert F. del Rosario signed the “Manila Declaration,” which reaffirmed the bilateral security relationship and called for multilateral talks to resolve maritime disputes in the region.

Broad U.S. policy objectives include the following: maintaining the U.S.-Philippine alliance; enhancing security and stability in the South China Sea; assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in counterterrorism, maritime, modernization, and administrative reform efforts; supporting the peace process in Muslim areas of Mindanao; promoting broad-based economic growth; and helping the Philippines to develop more stable and responsive democratic institutions. The U.S. Congress has placed conditions upon a portion of U.S. military assistance to the Philippines in order to pressure the Philippine government and judicial institutions to hold the perpetrators of extrajudicial killings and violence against journalists accountable.

Since 2002, the United States has provided non-combat assistance to the AFP through the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines—rotating units of approximately 600 U.S. military personnel. Philippine-U.S. counterterrorism efforts, along with development aid, have helped to significantly reduce the size and strength of the Abu Sayyaf Group, a violent, Philippines-based Islamist organization that has acted as a bridge between Southeast Asian terrorist networks and Muslim separatist insurgencies such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

In the past decade, the Philippines has been one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance in Southeast Asia. About 60% of the aid supported development programs in Muslim areas of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, with the aim of mitigating the economic and political conditions that make extremist ideologies and activities attractive. In 2010, the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation approved a five-year, $434 million compact with the Philippine government. Through the Partnership for Growth, the United States supports economic expansion and investment in the Philippines and Manila’s goal of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multilateral free trade agreement.

In 2011, Chinese naval forces reportedly harassed Philippine fishing and oil exploration vessels and erected structures in disputed waters of the South China Sea near the Philippine island of Palawan. Philippine President Benigno Aquino responded in part by announcing increases in the country’s military budget and welcoming increased security cooperation with the United States. The Philippine government has demanded that Beijing negotiate a code of conduct and settlement of claims with the principal regional body, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The U.S. government does not take a position on the territorial disputes, but supports a peaceful resolution that is based upon international law and involves a multilateral process. Washington also has promised greater military cooperation with, and assistance to, the Philippines, although no permanent U.S. bases are planned.

Date of Report: April
5, 2012
Number of Pages:
Order Number: R
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.