Good morning, everyone.
Ambassador Vijay Thakur Singh, Director-General of the Indian Council of World Affairs;
Ambassador Ma. Teresita Daza, Director-General of the Foreign Service Institute of the Philippines;
Ladies and gentlemen;
It is an extreme pleasure and honor to stand before you today to share my thoughts on the excellent friendship and relationship enjoyed by the Philippines and India. I would like to express my sincerest appreciation to the Indian Council of World Affairs for providing me with this opportunity to speak before you today.
I am in India for the 5th Meeting of the Philippines-India Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation, or JCBC, upon the invitation of Minister Jaishankar. This meeting will build on the positive trajectory of high-level interactions between our two countries over the past five, six years. As it takes place in the months leading to the 75th year of our diplomatic relations in 2024, it is also a time for considering and pondering on the milestones of our ties and what lies ahead.
Our relations and their future stand on the rich centuries-old historical connection between our two peoples through maritime trade as well as socio-cultural exchanges. They also draw purpose from our affinities as democratic Asian republics.
In this lecture, I will address the rich common ground uniting the Philippines and India in their conduct of diplomacy and approach to international affairs.
ON SHARED COMMITMENT TO DEMOCRACY AND INDEPENDENT FOREIGN POLICY
Firstly, democracy and pluralism are defining features of our respective national identities. As such, they provide deep anchors to our ties.
The thoughts of contemporaries Jose Rizal and Rabindranath Tagore, still a subject of contemporary scholarship, tell of the fires of national awakening in the forge of Enlightenment ideals, during a parallel colonial experience.
The fight for freedom gave birth to a strong sense of national identity, leading to the establishment of Asia's first republic in the Philippines and the world's largest democracy in India.
Today, Filipinos and Indians embrace the values of freedom, peace, and justice. Our democratic systems provide frameworks for protecting human rights, promoting inclusive governance, and empowering our citizens. Democracy frames our endeavors to build resilient and thriving societies where diversity is celebrated as a source of strength and dynamism.
Secondly, the Philippines pursues an independent foreign policy, in accordance with our Constitution. This is something we share with India. We promote our national interests and principles, while seeking peaceful and mutually beneficial arrangements and engagements with the international community. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has enunciated this policy with the Philippines being friend to all and enemy to none.
Intrinsic to this policy is the belief in the agency of states to pursue their own paths towards progress and development and to have an influence in shaping their environments in solidarity and peace with other states.
Thirdly, the Philippines and India are staunch advocates for inclusive multilateralism that responds to the challenge of our age.
As founding members of the United Nations during the era of decolonization and the Cold War, the Philippines and India have put themselves as champions of national independence, self-determination, and the interests of developing countries in the UN and its specialized agencies. To this day, we are working together to amplify the voice and perspectives of the developing world in all important global discourse through the Group of 77 and the Non Aligned Movement. We both work actively to create a UN system that is fairer, and able to evolve and deliver for its constituents.
Fourthly, for both the Philippines and India, peace, security, and stability are critical to enabling populations in our countries and elsewhere to enjoy the fruits of sustainable growth and prosperity, in freedom and sovereign equality.
And we have demonstrated our commitment to the cause of peace in a tangible and profound way: by being among the top troop-contributing countries to UN Peacekeeping Operations worldwide. Filipino and Indian UN Peacekeepers served together in seven (7) UN Peacekeeping Missions, including in Cambodia, Lebanon, Sudan, South Sudan, Golan Heights, Haiti, and Cote d’Ivoire.
Parallel to this is our decades of tireless work in partnerships between and among developing countries, to build capacities and to empower institutions and communities in the developing world.
Altogether these endeavors in the UN and in multilateral institutions are a vital expression of our mutual desire for a more equitable and inclusive world order, where every nation has an equal opportunity to thrive and prosper. They are an extension of our faith in democracy and the power of multitudes.
ON BRIDGE-BUILDING AND EVOLVING ROLES
Ladies and gentlemen, when we delve into the societal fabric of the Philippines and India, we find remarkable parallels, particularly in our diverse and multicultural societies where people from various backgrounds coexist and contribute to our cultural tapestry and vitality. We acknowledge that diversity is a wellspring of strength, and that true resilience is built on respect for different perspectives.
This national DNA translates to the common approach of Philippine and Indian diplomacy to recognize that harnessing diversity is key to making multilateralism work. Both our countries have played roles that seek to bring about a climate of mutual respect and collaboration among a wide array of actors and centers of influence, in keeping with the demands of a deeply interconnected world. These roles have enabled our efforts to define a multilateralism that can overcome differences, bridge polarities and forge consensus for collective action.
These inform the vision and strategic frameworks for our respective sub-regions within the broader Indo-Pacific. India has put forward the concept of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) for the Indian Ocean region while the Philippines, along with nine other Southeast Asian countries, has championed ASEAN Centrality. Although these frameworks may differ in geographic focus and scope, they share fundamental goals, namely: fostering regional cooperation and multilateralism; ensuring security in the maritime domain; promoting physical, digital and institutional connectivity; advocating for open regionalism; and preserving the rules-based order that has provided the international system with stability and predictability.
ASEAN also places great importance to India’s unwavering commitment to ASEAN centrality within the regional security architecture. India's Indo-Pacific Strategy, introduced in 2018, converges with the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, especially in their mutual goal of maintaining a free, open, and inclusive region, and in their emphasis on maritime and development cooperation and adherence to international law.
The Philippines and India, nationally, and in the context of ASEAN, bilateral partnerships and groupings, are at the core of robust partnerships and institutions that will underpin peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific in the future.
ON REFORMING MULTILATERALISM
Ladies and gentlemen,
In this changing global landscape in which we have been witnessing, especially over these past years, shifting power dynamics and complex challenges, both the Philippines and India recognize the need for an evolving multilateral system. We each take the view that existing institutions must adapt to effectively address contemporary issues such as climate change and environmental sustainability, inequality and social justice, global health, migration, and the rise of new and advanced technologies, among others.
The Philippines appreciates India’s advocacy for a "reformed multilateral system” that promotes inclusivity, transparency, and accountability. On this, the Philippines fully agrees: international institutions need to be reimagined to be more responsive to, and more reflective of the realities of the 21st century. Through collaboration and constructive engagement, we help shape a more equitable and responsive global order.
I have often said that as long as there is no credible alternative to the United Nations and its multilateral institutions, we must persevere in making these institutions work better. In the center of our efforts for an enhanced and more credible multilateral system is the refocusing on the interests and well-being of the people, in other words, to place them back at the heart of multilateralism’s goals. This will apply the spirit of the UN Charter’s preamble, which begins with the phrase, "We the Peoples...”. As such, it will lend a succinct meaning to the work of many groupings, like BRICS, the G20, and ASEAN, for people-centered peace and development.
Here again, Philippine and Indian diplomacy meet. For each of us believes that empowering marginalized voices and more inclusive decision-making processes are key to making the United Nations not only more effective but more accountable. A deeper sense of ownership by many states and stakeholders of the UN and global institutions will contribute to consolidating trust, and more importantly, confidence in the multilateral system.
ON PH-INDIA PARTNERSHIP
Ladies and gentlemen, the Philippines and India have demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of many challenges. Both our nations have overcome and emerged stronger from socioeconomic obstacles and political upheavals since the time of their independence. The 21st century beckons us to chart a course for a bilateral relationship that mirrors our highest ideals and our determination to secure the future of our nation and the next generations.
While the Philippines' collaboration with India within regional and international platforms is an important agenda, my mission in New Delhi this week will focus on advancing bilateral cooperation. We are redrawing focus on facets of our partnerships in health security, food and energy security, cyber and outer-space cooperation, and maritime security. Let me just cite a few examples of these:
First, the COVID-19 pandemic has put health security as paramount in the global agenda and in shoring up national resilience. Our partnership, therefore, must venture more in research and development, investments in new technologies, and exchange best practices in delivering life-saving medicines and services to those who need them most.
I note that our bilateral health cooperation has also acquired new salience with the Philippines' push for the establishment of its own Virology and Vaccine Institute and Center for Disease Control. Under President Marcos Jr., the Philippines is determined to set up premier research and development institutes that will help the country prepare for future pandemics, bioterrorism and the prevention of the re-emergence of endemic diseases.
Second, to meet the needs of our expanding populations in the face of climate change, food and energy security are now in the front and center of our ties. Investments and innovation are key to driving productivity and sustainability in these sectors.
Third, the Philippines and India, as like-minded nations, bear the responsibility of safeguarding the global commons for the benefit of present and future generations. We have a significant role to play in shaping the rules and norms governing cyberspace, outer space, and the maritime domains. The complexities and challenges in these fields are profound and they demand urgent and thoughtful regional and global cooperation and action.
In the realm of cybersecurity, we can collaborate to address common threats and ensure the protection of data and privacy, especially with the increasing application of fintech in our local economies. By jointly promoting robust cybersecurity measures, we can reinforce a secure and trusted digital environment that fosters innovation; supports economic growth benefiting both small, medium and big enterprises; and protects the well-being of our citizens.
The establishment of the Philippine Space Agency in 2019 pronounced the aims of the Philippines to participate in space exploration and to optimize the use of space- based technologies for development. We hope for a stronger collaboration with India towards this end, including in promoting equitable and democratic access to outer space as part of the global commons, through norms that protect the interests of all and uphold the common good.
Lastly, as maritime nations situated at the crossroads of the world's busiest sea lanes, the Philippines and India share a vested interest in maritime security and the preservation of our invaluable marine resources. We must intensify bilateral initiatives for knowledge-sharing and capacity-building to uphold seafaring standards, promote adherence to maritime trading rules, and enforce marine environmental protection measures. This way, we are able to not only protect our oceans, but also ensure the long-term resilience and prosperity of the communities reliant on these waters for their livelihoods.
The Philippines and India, as vanguards of international law and multilateralism, recognize the importance of upholding and strengthening the rule of law in the global commons. Our pursuit of a predictable international order that respects state sovereignty, promotes stability and fairness, and provides for the peaceful resolution of disputes based on international law is a hallmark of the responsible global citizenship that characterizes Philippine and Indian diplomacy.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends, as I conclude, let me state that the bilateral relations between the Philippines and India, which have flourished across various sectors over the years, are flexing for further growth, in scale and in depth.
While our nations navigate the current global landscape, our history of cooperation rooted in shared values and common outlook points the way for more meaningful cooperation ahead. Our engagement in the past decades in trade, defense, education, and culture has deepened our mutual understanding and solidarity. This provides the sound footing for our future ties, as they gain new contours of common purpose in the 21st century.
Democracy will always hold a deep resonance in the hearts of the Filipino and Indian people. Democracy embodies the triumph and primacy of the people's will, enabling them to shape their own futures and participate in governing their respective nations. By the representation and empowerment of diverse groups, democracy nurtures a sense of belonging and ensures that the voices of all citizens are heard and valued. For these reasons, the Philippines and India profess an unwavering faith in democracy, and in its unique power to unite, inspire, and transform.
Through the vicissitudes in global politics, and in light of the unfinished quest by the community of nations for peace that endures and upholds the best of humanity, this is a most formidable bond between our two countries that serves our peoples and the good of our region and the world.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.