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Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique A. Manalo Emphasizes Importance of Rules-Based International Order in Policy Speech in Tokyo

16 May 2023 – Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo emphasized the importance of maintaining an international order based on the rule of law in a highly anticipated lecture on the Philippines-Japan Strategic Partnership and the Rules-Based Order at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo, Japan, on May 16, 2023. The lecture provided an overview of the bilateral relations between the Philippines and Japan, emphasizing the importance of upholding the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region and the role that middle powers can play in peace and stability.

“The rule of law ensures equity in the global commons…and the Philippines recognizes the significance of equitable rules in the maritime domain,” noted the Secretary, highlighting the fact that the Philippines and Japan, as island states, “have a common objective of keeping the seas of the Indo-Pacific safe, secure and peaceful.”

“Maritime cooperation will always be a key feature of Philippines-Japan ties,” the Secretary added.

In his lecture, Secretary Manalo highlighted the six and a half decades of bilateral relations between the Philippines and Japan, characterized by reconciliation, friendship, cooperation, and mutual respect. He acknowledged Japan’s vital role in the Philippines’ post-war reconstruction and development and emphasized Japan’s continued support in various key sectors such as infrastructure development, renewable energy, humanitarian assistance, and disaster response, education and human resource development, and public health and agricultural system enhancement.

Secretary Manalo emphasized the significance of the rules-based order in addressing the challenges faced by the Indo-Pacific region, including climate change, advances in science and technology, and social and economic inequalities. He expressed concerns about developments challenging the rules-based order and the tensions arising from contemporary rivalries, especially in Southeast Asia. He argued for the importance of respect for the rules-based order in maintaining stability.

He elaborated on three key points for the Philippines and the rules-based order: its importance in governing the country’s extensive maritime domain and the importance of fair and inclusive governance in both the maritime and outer space domains; the Philippines’ aspiration to upper middle-income country status and the importance of a peaceful and stable regional environment for uplifting the quality of life of all Filipinos; and the significance of multilateralism as a unifying force and a platform for inclusion and empowerment. He advocated for the engagement of a broad array of actors and a more constructive, inclusive, and equitable multilateralism.

He commended the shared values of the Philippines and Japan as the basis of their Strategic Partnership. He saw in this the possibility to advocate for the rights of all nations, promote peaceful settlement of disputes, engage in non-proliferation and disarmament, and ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific. He called for concerted efforts to strengthen international institutions, reform them to reflect the evolving geopolitical landscape, and fashion a more inclusive and representative international order.

The direction he elaborated for the strategic partnership would encompass economic security and resilience, people-to-people connections, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, maritime cooperation, cyber-cooperation, and space cooperation.

Secretary Manalo reiterated the Philippines’ commitment to maintaining peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea, protecting its rights in its Exclusive Economic Zone, and pursuing peaceful and legal means to assert these rights. He emphasized the importance of the 2016 Arbitral Award and UNCLOS as a basis for resolving disputes and establishing a cooperative regime in the South China Sea.

He called on big powers to engage in dialogue and diplomacy to address security challenges, and explained that constructive engagement with both China and the United States is a necessity for countries like the Philippines.

The lecture of Secretary Manalo at GRIPS underscored the deepening ties and shared commitment between the Philippines and Japan in upholding the rules-based order, promoting regional peace and security, and advancing their strategic partnership for the betterment of their peoples.

Over 100 diplomats, academics, and journalists attended the special lecture at the GRIPS campus in Tokyo. Philippine Foreign Affairs officials and Manila-based reporters also joined the event via a videoconference link.