Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific


China’s PAFMM grey zone maritime challenge to the Philippines

Hand out file photo dated 27 October, 2019 of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Akizuki-class destroyer JS Fuyuzuki (DD 118) are underway in formation while conducting a bilateral exercise in the Philippine Sea. An unknown number of sailors onboard the Nimitz class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which forward-deployed in Japan and presently pier-side there, have tested positive for the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. This comes just a day after the U.S. Navy announced it had quarantined the entire crew of another aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, on their ship in port in Guam after a number of sailors contracted the virus (Photo: Reuters/Codie L. Soule).

Author: Christian Vicedo, Manila

China’s People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM) is key to understanding Beijing’s grey-zone operations in the South China Sea (SCS). The PAFMM is organised and linked to the People’s Liberation Army chain of command through the People’s Armed Forces Districts. PAFMM members are trained in maritime claims enforcement, logistics support, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and sabotage. Operating about 84 large vessels with reinforced hulls and water cannons, the PAFMM serves as China’s third force in the SCS.

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Populists in a pandemic

US President Donald Trump speaks with President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte in Manila, Philippines, 13 November 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

When the former mayor of the southern city of Davao, Rodrigo Duterte, surged ahead of his establishment rivals in the 2016 presidential elections, some western media fell back on labelling him the ‘Trump of the East’. Read more…

Rodrigo Duterte’s war on many fronts

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during his State of the Nation Address at the plenary hall of the House of Representatives in Quezon City, Philippines, 27 July 2020 (Photo: Presidential Photos via Reuters).

Author: Julio C Teehankee, De La Salle University

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his penultimate State of the Nation Address as the onslaught of COVID-19 pandemic continues. Instead of providing a concrete plan to address the rise and spread of the virus, he used the opportunity to attack his political enemies and reiterate his declaration of a war on many fronts. The populist president vowed to ‘fight this pandemic with the same fervour as our campaign against illegal drugs, criminality, insurgency, and corruption in high places and entrenched parochial interests’. Read more…

Strengthening the Philippines’ approach to maritime security

A Philippine flag flutters from BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated Philippine Navy ship that has been aground since 1999 and became a Philippine military detachment on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea, 29 March 2014 (Reuters/ Erik De Castro/File Photo).

Author: Ellaine Joy C Sanidad, Philippine National Coast Watch System

Over the last decade, a lack of expertise among countries in managing their maritime domain has allowed lawlessness and crime on the seas to proliferate. Emerging criminal networks have become more complex and harder-to-quell. The relationship between various security threats, such as maritime piracy and terrorist financing, is also becoming increasingly interconnected. Read more…

Laying down the law in the South China Sea

The Royal Australian Navy guided-missile frigate HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154) (L) is underway with the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) and the Arleigh-Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) in the South China Sea 18 April, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Nicholas Huynh).

Author: Donald R Rothwell, ANU

Australia’s 23 July statement to the UN Secretary-General in formal response to a series of diplomatic exchanges between Malaysia, China and other states is the clearest to date on legal issues associated with China’s South China Sea maritime claims. Diplomatically the statement is unremarkable, legally though, it makes Australia’s position on some key issues very clear.

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Standing up for ASEAN in the South China Sea

Warships and fighter jets of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy take part in a military display in the South China Sea, 12 April 2018 (Photo: China Stringer Network via Reuters).

Author: Collin Koh, RSIS

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently stated that the United States considers Chinese maritime claims in the South China Sea illegal. This is a fundamentally new stance. While scholars and pundits are trying to make sense of what the statement means for the dispute, more interesting is how ASEAN will respond as it is inevitably caught in the eye of the South China Sea storm.

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Media repression and authoritarianism a new normal in the Philippines

Journalists cover as ABS-CBN news chief Ging Reyes speaks to fellow employees and supporters of the broadcast network, following the Philippine congress' vote against its franchise renewal, outside the ABS-CBN headquarters, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, 10 July 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Eloisa Lopez).

Author: Danilo Araña Arao, UP Diliman

On 6 July the House of Representatives of the Philippines (HOR) ended its 12th and final public hearing on the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN, a leading broadcast network in the Philippines which was ordered closed by the government. The HOR’s decision of non-renewal reflects growing media repression in the Philippines. Read more…

A collective ASEAN response to COVID-19

An official wearing a face mask looks on as Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc attends a special video conference with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Hanoi 14 April 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Manan Vatsyayana).

Author: Hsien-Li Tan, NUS

When COVID-19 cases first appeared in the ASEAN region early in 2020, there were fears that public health systems would be overwhelmed. Responses around the region have varied. After decisive action — and missteps — in the initial months, Vietnam, Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore are now cautiously relaxing restrictions while working to avert a second wave. Indonesia and the Philippines continue to see significantly higher infection and death rates, leading to strong criticism against the Jokowi and Duterte administrations.

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Modernising the Philippine Navy

Members of the Philippine Marines on BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated Philippine Navy ship (Photo: Reuters/Erik De Castro).

Author: Shang-Su Wu, RSIS

The upcoming commission of two purpose built Jose Rizal-class frigates is unprecedented for the Philippines. Since independence, the Philippines has relied heavily on secondhand warships — mainly from the United States — to protect its large archipelagic land, waters and other maritime entitlements. But this strategy has proven flawed.

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Fast-tracking a Philippine–EU free trade agreement

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during the opening session of the ASEAN and European Union summit in Pasay, Manila, Philippines, 14 November 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Dondi Tawatao).

Author: Stacey Nicole M Bellido, Manila

The Philippines is at a critical juncture in its economic relations with the European Union over free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations. As the economic consequences of pandemic grip the world, the Philippines should seize this opportunity to revive negotiations and secure a Philippine–EU FTA to help drive a long-term and sustainable economic recovery.

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Another Act against democracy in the Philippines

A protestor wears a mask with the face of President Rodrigo Duterte and a clown wig during a rally against the anti-terrorism bill on Independence Day, in University of the Philippines, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, 12 June, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lopez).

Author: Luke Lischin, National War College

Awaiting the signature of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020, the result of longstanding congressional debate and controversy surrounding the Human Security Act (HSA) implemented in 2007. The latter has been accused of eroding critical protections against government overreach in the fight against terrorism.

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The Philippines’ gender-blind COVID-19 response

Girls hang out with their dogs on the roof of their house as the Philippine government enforces home quarantine to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Metro Manila, Philippines, 21 April 2020. (Photo:Reuters/Eloisa Lopez).

Authors: Dynah A Basuil, KG Lobo and Christine Marie Faustino, AIM RVR Center

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s sudden declaration of a state health emergency in mid-March 2020 left businesses shuttered and the government scrambling to respond to COVID-19. While the government’s policy response appears decisive — related legislation was passed in record time — its formulation neglected collaboration with global experts and civil society leaders on a holistic response involving all parts (family, education, economy and government) of Philippine society. Read more…

COVID-19 tightens Duterte’s iron grip

President Rodrigo Duterte speaks at Davao International airport in Davao City in southern Philippines, 8 September 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Lean Daval Jr).

Author: Imelda Deinla, ANU

On top of its health impact, COVID-19 has thrown the Philippines further into economic and political uncertainty. The government under President Rodrigo Duterte is demonstrating to the world yet again that a forceful exercise of power is its preferred mode of governance. Yet despite harsh quarantine measures, the Philippines continues to struggle to contain the spread of the virus. Read more…

Can COVID-19 spark an energy transition in the Philippines?

A janitor wearing a hazmat suit to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cleans the rails of an escalator in an almost empty shopping mall in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila, Philippines 3 June 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Eloisa Lopez).

Authors: Majah-Leah V Ravago, Ateneo de Manila University and James A Roumasset, University of Hawaii

The Philippines’ medium-term Development Plan 2017–2022 is anchored in AmBisyon Natin 2040, a long-term vision for attaining high-income status by 2040. The economy was seemingly on track from 2010–2019, growing at an average rate of 6.3 per cent and conquering the boom-and-bust cycles that had previously characterised economic development in the Philippines. Read more…

COVID-19 threatens democracy in Southeast Asia

A soldier wearing a face mask holds on his weapon as he guards an empty street following the lockdown imposed to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manila, Philippines, 25 April 2020 (Photo:Reuters/Eloisa Lopez).

Author: Murray Hiebert, Bower Group Asia

COVID-19 has been tough on the health and economies of Southeast Asia, but the region’s fledgling quasi-democracies are also under threat. Efforts to control the virus are giving authoritarian rulers the perfect cover to adopt draconian levers to rein in their opponents and critics. Read more…