FOREIGN policy experts on Tuesday urged Filipino voters to choose a presidential candidate who could be the Philippines’ “top diplomat” amid ongoing tension in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Unfortunately, Joaquin San Diego, a lawyer and dean of the School of Law and Governance of the University of Asia and the Pacific (U&AP), said some of the presidential hopefuls do not have foreign policy experience.
He noted that there was a lack of discussion of foreign policy issues in the candidates’ campaigns and in the presidential debates.
“We need this discussion because vital issues of foreign policy concern us personally, our family, our community, our whole country,” San Diego said in a symposium at the university.
“Our specific concern should be how we can tap our potential in this field for development,” he added.
Ambassador Lauro Baja, chairman of Philippine Ambassadors Foundation Inc., said the next President will be facing the most difficult challenge in foreign policy as China continues its unilateral moves that heighten the tension and security concerns in strategic waters.
“Where are we now? We are at the stage where China is occupying features, they reclaim the seas, they build structures and place military outposts. We are also at the stage where our allies have responded to China’s action,” Baja also noted.
Enrique Manalo, undersecretary for policy of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said maintaining a good relationship with foreign countries will bring stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region.
He added that the Philippines should be continuously involved in shaping global policy in a bid to also protect Filipino migrant workers, who number around eight million.
“In the midst of these uncertainties, there is also the danger that some of the most welcoming societies or liberal societies around the world might soon become less friendly to our citizens overseas. This is why we constantly help shape the external environment in order to protect the welfare of our global citizens,” Manalo said.