Last week, the Philippines began a new defense industry forum with the Czech Republic. The agreement illustrates both Prague’s interest in expanding into new markets as well as the diverse range of partners that Manila is exploring defense ties with amid the recent alignment shifts the country is experiencing under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
As I have noted before in these pages, while the Czech Republic has not been a traditional defense partner for the Philippines, the two countries had mulled boosting security ties in the past and had discussions on some related issues, including equipment that Prague could provide Manila to boost its defense capabilities. The advent of an independent foreign policy under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has opened the door even more for newer partners such as the Czech Republic to boost ties with Manila, including in the defense realm.
A key inflection point for the defense relationship came in May 2017, when the two sides inked a defense cooperation agreement (DCA) at the defense ministry in Prague. The agreement paved the way for defense cooperation in various fields, including procurement, logistics, peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, and military training and education. And one of the new institutionalized mechanisms that was set up was the establishment of a Joint Defense Committee (JDC) to organize some of these activities.
Last week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with the holding of the first-ever iteration of the JDC. The meeting, held in Prague, was co-chaired by Philippine Defense Undersecretary Cardozo Luna and Czech Defense Vice Minister Jakub Landovský who both led their respective delegations.
Per the official Philippine account of the interaction, the JDC saw both sides discussed aspects of existing collaboration as well as mutual issues of interest, including the security situation currently at play in Europe and Southeast Asia and their efforts to develop their own militaries. They also discussed future areas where cooperation could be advanced within their bilateral defense relationship.
One of the outcomes of the meeting was an agreement to establish a new body on defense industry, which was an area that had been discussed previously as well. According to the Philippine embassy, both sides agreed to establish what was termed as a working committee on defense industrial cooperation in order to further collaboration in this area.
Few specifics were provided as to how the establishment of this body would give way to more concrete collaboration, including the pursuit of more specific joint defense industrial projects between the two sides. Nonetheless, given that we are continuing to see incremental progress in the defense domain of Philippine-Czech Republic relations, it is worth paying attention to how both sides may look to put more meat on the bones of ties in the coming years.