The tense situation in the West Philippine Sea and the infamous Masasapano incident has contributed to the big drop of the Philippines’ Global Peace Index ranking.
According to the 2015 Global Peace Index report issued by the Institute for Economics and Peace, the Philippines is now placed 141st from 134 in 2014.
The Global Peace Index measures the state of peace in 162 countries based on 23 indicators in three main categories – ongoing domestic and international conflict, societal safety and security and militarization.
The report said 81 countries have become more peaceful in 2014 while 78 have deteriorated.
The Philippines scored 2.462 in the index and was among the countries with “low” state of peace. Last year, the Philippines was in 134th place with a score of 2.456.
The Philippines is ranked last among Southeast Asian countries and is just ahead North Korea in the Asia-Pacific.
The West Philippine Sea remains a potential area for conflict, with countries involved in the dispute (China, Vietnam and the Philippines) all showing a worsening of their scores in the 2015 index, the report said.
Although the likelihood of further military skirmishes in the disputed waters is high, a large-scale military engagement remains unlikely, the report said.
“The Philippines suffered from an escalation of internal conflicts between the government and rebel groups occurring late in the measurement period,” the report added.
Commenting on the analysis that the territorial row with China was among the contributing factors to the lowering of the country’s ranking, Malacañang said Manila will stick to its “rules-based” approach on the matter.
“Government has always advocated a peaceful and rules-based approach in resolving the issues concerning the West Philippine Sea, and from the outset, the Philippines chose arbitration as the vehicle towards attaining that goal,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said on state-run dzRB radio.
“In fact, the international community expressed solidarity in this approach chosen by the Philippines,” he added.
The Philippines had sought international arbitration in its sea dispute with China, which has maintained its presence in the area including the Scarborough Shoal.
“We are awaiting the findings of the permanent court of arbitration on this matter,” Coloma said.
On one hand, the Palace official maintained that achieving long-term peace, stability, and progress in Mindanao remains the “top priority of the government.”
“Thus, it is working towards the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Although debates about the BBL went beyond the last session of Congress, we see this as an opportunity to harmonize the differing viewpoints,” he said.