Imperialism, state-making and Philippine security in the South China Sea

Date of Publication


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Political Science


College of Liberal Arts


Political Science

Thesis Adviser

Charmaine Misalucha Willoughby

Defense Panel Chair

Elaine C. Tolentino

Defense Panel Member

Rodolfo A. Tor
Alejandro Christian D. Soler
Jazmin B. Llana


Current analyses on Philippine security in the South China Sea are anchored in the structural view of the state. In this vein, states are often seen as unitary actors which are equally situated in an environment of power balancing or cooperation with one another. Conversely, this study forwards that the vast of heterodox approaches in IR can provide an alternative explanation on the subject matter by looking into the underlying causes of state behavior. This study takes off from Mohammed Ayoobs theory of subaltern realism and argues that the twin pressures of late entry to the states system and late state-making shape its behavior in two ways. First, the Philippines behavior in the SCS is rooted in its colonial experience under the United States. Second, although US colonial legacy remains both a constructive and a divisive component of the country's hardware and software capacity, they are largely influenced by the complications of its domestic politics. These themes are elaborated as follows. Chapter 2 tackles how US colonial rule shaped the key institutions of the Philippine state and its consequences to the country's external and internal security (1898-1990). For the following period (1991-2016), Chapter 3 explores the ways domestic politics played out in the efforts of the post-Cold War governments to reform and modernize its security sector. The chapter also illustrates how the parallelism of Philippine behavior with the US strategic agenda in the Asia-Pacific supplemented such efforts. While these developments garnered resistance in Philippine society, they were proven effective in the country's counterbalancing strategy towards China. By extension, Chapter 4 looks into the incremental steps undertaken by the Philippines to internationalize the South China Sea dispute both in regional and multilateral platforms against the marginal outcomes of state-to-state interactions. The study forwards that despite its limited hardware and software capacities, the Philippines demonstrated autonomy by expanding its spaces for maneuverability. This case brings us to the heart of the Third World security logic: security predicaments in former colonial states are all part of their ongoing state-making project. To overcome the growing pains of early statehood, the solution lies in the continued capacity-building of its policy institutions.

Abstract Format






Accession Number


Shelf Location

Archives, The Learning Commons, 12F Henry Sy Sr. Hall

Physical Description

1 computer disc ; 4 3/4 in.


South China Sea; South China Sea--Foreign relations--China; Philippines--Foreign relations--China; China--Foreign relations--Philippines

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