The Philippines Update is a biennial conference that provides in-depth assessment of the recent political, social and economic situation with a thematic focus on timely issues affecting the Philippines. The Update aims to build closer engagement among academics, policy makers, the corporate sector, development sector, and other non-government actors about important issues and development challenges facing the country. It fosters greater awareness between Australia and the Philippines on matters that are of mutual interest. Each Update includes presentations of political, economic, legal and social developments that address the conference theme. The fi rst Philippine Update was organized in 2012. The Philippines Update is supported by the Australian National University and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
As the Duterte administration marks its two-year anniversary, the Philippines is undergoing a series of internal and external shocks that go to the heart of its constitution and its legal and social policy contract with its citizens. The Duterte administration’s signature to date has been a Manila-centric show of strength through the imposition of martial law, a punitive anti-drugs policy, and executive disregard for independent agencies. The national commitment to rule of law and human rights has also been called into question. This has energized and called forward many other policy actors: technocrats, business, civil society, the military, armed groups, individuals, and groups across the spectrum of Filipino politics. Externally, the Duterte government has embraced China as a new bilateral partner, notwithstanding the tensions surrounding China’s maritime activities. The 2017 Marawi siege has underscored the vulnerability of the Southern Philippines to external terrorist groups and has been a major setback to achieving a sustainable peace and a political settlement for Mindanao. These issues bear directly on the Australia-Philippines relationship, the forms of legal and security cooperation that will characterize our future relationship, and the regional standing of the Philippines as an effective actor within ASEAN and within the Asia-Pacific more widely.