Philippines Table of Contents
For decades the Philippines was an active proponent of regionalism. In 1954 it joined Australia, Britain, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, and the United States in the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization against the perceived threat from the Chinese and Indochinese communist regimes. This alliance was phased out in 1977.
Manila's quest for regional cooperation received a significant boost in the 1965-66 period, when bilateral problems between Indonesia and Malaysia that had been known as the confrontation--until then the main obstacle to regionalism in Southeast Asia--gave way to neighborliness. In August 1967 the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was formed by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand to pursue economic, social, cultural, and technical cooperation.
The Philippines was also party to a multilateral dispute over ownership of the Kalayaan Islands, as Filipinos call some of the Spratlys, a scattered group of atolls west of the Philippine island of Palawan and east of Vietnam, also claimed in toto or partially by China, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam (see External Defense , ch. 5). Tomas Clomas, a Manila lawyer, visited the islands in 1956, claimed them for himself, named them Kalayaan (Freedomland), then asked the Philippine government to make them a protectorate. Philippine troops were sent to the Kalayaans in 1968. All parties to the dispute were interested in possible offshore oil around the islands. The law of the sea grants to any country that receives international recognition of a claim to even a rock sticking out of the water exclusive economic rights to all resources, including oil, within a 200-nautical-mile radius of that point. Manila regularly tried to extract from the United States a declaration that it would defend the Philippines' claim to the Kalayaans as part of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America, but the United States just as regularly refused so to interpret that treaty.
Aquino broke the tradition that a Philippine president's first overseas trip was to Washington. She visited Jakarta and Singapore in August 1986. Indonesian president Soeharto promised not to aid Muslim separatists in Mindanao but cautioned Aquino not to attempt reconciliation with communist insurgents. Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew echoed Soeharto's warning. Both leaders encouraged the Philippines to find a way to extend United States base rights. Although the governments espoused differing world views, the Philippines has had few disputes with Indonesia or Singapore, and relations remained neighborly in the early 1990s. The Philippines enjoyed a cooperative relationship with Thailand. The two countries in 1991 had no disputes and many common interests, including a history of security cooperation with the United States.
Data as of June 1991