Researchers from the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) attended a public lecture entitled “In Defense of the Philippines: Assessing the factors affecting the external defense environment” on 11 November 2014 at the University Heritage Museum, University of the Philippines-Diliman, Quezon City. The speaker was Prof. Herman S. Kraft, Associate Professor at the UP Department of Political Science and a recipient of a UP Edgardo J. Angara Fellowship (UPPEJA).
In his lecture, Prof. Kraft described Philippine defense policy as “residual, not well thought out, and not very strategic.” He noted how the defense policy focused on internal security and how defense spending, as a percentage of GDP, has remained stagnant. He also emphasized the reactive thinking in the country’s defense planning, as necessary reforms and policies gain greater impetus only after the incidents have broken out (e.g. Mischief Reef in 1994 and Scarborough Shoal in 2012).
Prof. Kraft stressed that defense policy must be attuned to the conditions that permanently affect the country’s external security. This includes an understanding that the Philippines is a maritime nation located at the “geographic and geopolitical nexus of interests and resources.”
On the issue of military modernization, Prof. Kraft noted that the Philippines should focus on defensive capabilities such as anti-ship missiles and anti-submarine warfare. He warned the country against taking part in the incipient regional arms race which can only lead to greater security dilemma for all actors involved.
The Philippines should also strengthen its ‘defense diplomacy’ by actively seeking non-hostile relations with every state and by promoting regional security cooperation through ASEAN. He also called for greater self-reliance and a more equidistant foreign policy.
In concluding his lecture, Prof. Kraft borrowed John J. Mearsheimer’s analogy of ‘Godzilla and Bambi’. Even though the Philippines is a peace-loving country – or a ‘Bambi’; it is necessary that is also develops its material capabilities and become a ‘Godzilla’ that can defend its own territory and sovereignty.
The public lecture was attended by UP professors and students, as well as representatives from the government.