ANU Open Research Repository has been upgraded. We are still working on a few minor issues, which may result in short outages throughout the day. Please get in touch with if you experience any issues.

The problem of the Philippines for U.S. Southeast Asian security policy




Riddle, Clayton L

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Canberra, ACT : The Australian National University


Since the end of World War II, the Philippines has shared a unique relationship with the U.S.; it has been a relationship based on unequal mutual interests but it has, nevertheless, been beneficial to both sides. For the Philippines, the importance of the U.S. stems from several factors: the U.S. has been a major trading partner, a main source of foreign investment, a strong military ally, origin of a large part of her political tradition, and cultural model for many of her people. For the U.S., the importance of the Philippines has been the strategic location for military bases, a source of primary goods for the U.S. economy, and a military and political ally in a region noted for its historical background of domestic unrest and hostile foreign relations. Specifically, U.S. policy towards the Philippine Islands since 1945 has been mainly concerned with three issues: removal of the vestiges of American sovereignty, economic rehabilitation and stability, and defence against external aggression. After nearly fifty years of colonial-style rule, the U.S. assisted the Philippines in making the transition from a colony to an independent state, and in 1946 the islands received the status of an independent republic. The U.S. maintained close relations, however, and even agreed to assist in the restoration of the national economy coming as a result of the war and three years of Japanese occupation. Defence agreements with the Philippines were signed permitting the continuation of American military bases and guaranteeing the defence of the Philippines from outside aggression. The U.S. also gave large amounts of military aid and assisted the fledgling Philippine government in resisting the Huk rebellion. In recent years, however, a long smouldering rift has ignited U.S. and Filipino policy makers over the dependency and lack of a national identity the Filipino people feel they have incurred as a direct result of the relationship with the U.S. One of the major conflicts has been over the degree of American presence in the Philippines as manifested by the U.S. military bases. Another has concerned economic development and the amount of economic aid and investment promised by the U.S. A third and more recent conflict has been over U.S. support for the now deposed despot Philippine ruler, Ferdinand Marcos, before his ouster from government in 1986. Throughout the post-war alliance, the extent of U.S. security and economic interests in the Philippines dictated to a large degree U.S. policy towards the Filipino government. As a result, U.S. concern for its own interests, in the minds of some Filipinos, took precedence over the best interests of the Filipinos as a whole. They point out that even when it was clear that President Marcos was suffocating the democratic ideal, the U.S. actually increased aid to the Marcos regime. This was done to assure U.S. interests remained intact, at the expense of the Filipino people living under the Marco government. In the transition to the Aquino government, the Filipino people have not forgotten U.S. support for Marcos, who brought suppression and authoritarianism to the Philippines.Consequently, in the early post-war years of the U.S.-Philippine relationship, there was enough mutuality of interests between the two countries, in spite of the economic disagreements, that the Philippine government could still be counted upon to support U.S. objectives and policy in Southeast Asia. In more current times, however, the growing Filipino resentment of ties with the U.S., coupled with the recent political developments within the Philippines, namely the ousting of President Marcos and the continuing domestic unrest under the Aquino government, has cast a shadow over future U.S. relations with the Philippines. This, in turn, has cast U.S. strategic security interests in relation to the Philippines and Southeast Asia in an uncertain light as well. The purpose of this study, therefore, will be to examine how American policy towards the Philippines has affected U.S. security interests in the past, both in Southeast Asia and in the Philippines, and what the future holds for U.S. security interests in the region, especially in regard to the continuing unrest in the Philippine domestic political scene. I will pursue essentially three primary questions in the course of the study: 1) exactly what were the factors that influenced and/or enhanced security relations between the Philippines and the U.S. during the immediate post-war period, and, more specifically, what this relationship entailed in relation to U.S. defence and strategic doctrine; 2) what internal and external factors within both countries upset this previously harmonious relationship; and 3) what the shift in U.S. support from Marcos to Aquino, and also the political shift in the Philippines itself from dictatorship to factionalized "democratic" rule under Aquino, means for U.S. security interests both in the Philippines and the surrounding region. The first chapter will begin with a brief historical overview of the U.S.-Philippine alliance beginning with the U.S. acquisition of the Philippines from Spain in 1898. Vestiges of the great-power rivalry played a determinant role in U.S.-Philippine relations, as did the indigenous situation with the Philippines itself, and these factors will continue to influence future relations. Therefore, a clear understanding of the treaties and defence agreements between the two countries, and the place of the Philippines in U.S. defence doctrine in a historical perspective will allow for a clearer contrast with the current political relationship. The second chapter will deal specifically with U.S.-Philippine security relations during the Marcos regime. Sovereignty and jurisdiction over the U.S military bases first became a major point of conflict under Marcos and remains a prominent issue in the Aquino government. During Marcos’s tenure as President, internal factors within the Philippines such as the domestic political turmoil involving the communist rebellion and the disintegration of centralized political authority affected the U.S.-Philippine security relationship. External factors such as U.S. trade and investment in the Philippines and new relations with other countries, most notably the Soviet Union, have also affected this relationship and have set in motion feelings and demands concerning the U.S. presence in the Philippines that have carried over to the Aquino government. The third chapter will discuss current U.S. and Philippine security interests. These security interests include the naval and air installations on the Philippine Islands themselves (as well as the upcoming lease re-negotiations), the stability of Southeast Asia and U.S. defence agreements, the ASEAN countries and their security concerns, and the containment of a growing Soviet presence in the region, especially in light of the Soviet military bases in Vietnam. The concluding chapter will deal with the consequences of past U.S. policies and how those will influence future relations, especially the upcoming military base lease negotiations. It will assess the U.S. position in the Philippines, in the light of its past relationship, in an attempt to determine the implications for future U.S. strategic interests. I will also attempt to discern, based on the past U.S.-Philippine relationship, whether the current and future relationship will remain beneficial to U.S. security interests, or, conversely, if the Philippines in its current state of political and domestic unrest, poses a "Central American Dilemma" for U.S. policy decisions.






Thesis (Masters sub-thesis)

Book Title

Entity type

Access Statement

Open Access

License Rights



Restricted until