The Hawai‘i Air National Guard (HIANG) and the Philippine Air Force (PAF) recently concluded a two month long air defense exchange program, marking the fifth straight year of cooperation between the two contingents. This year, the HIANG mission travelled around the Philippines, to exchange ideas on air defense, observe the PAF, and offer American security expertise. In years past, the PAF has also travelled to Hawai‘i for the exchange. Over the half-decade long partnership, the range of issues covered has evolved; the PAF continues to modernize, increasing the level of interaction and shifting the focus toward operational and strategic exchanges. The HIANG-PAF exchange is part of the State Partnership Program, which fosters security cooperation and joint training between US state National Guards and the forces of countries around the globe, including several in Asia.
The Philippines has long been an ally of the United States, since the two formally established a partnership through the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. Despite some recent tensions, both countries have continually worked to strengthen security ties through agreements like the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which furthered cooperation between American and Filipino troops in the Philippines, improving their coordinated response against any potential threats. In addition to its cooperation with Hawai‘i, the Philippines also participates in exercises with American forces in Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHILEX) in the Philippines, and the broader Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises between the United States and several Southeast Asian nations.
Non-security links between Hawai‘i and the Philippines are also growing. Hawai‘i has 18 sister city relationships and six sister state relationships with the Philippines. The state has also become a popular destination for Filipinos, with the 342,000 Filipinos that live in Hawai‘i accounting for the largest group of Asian Americans in the state. Economic ties, too, are growing, with Hawai‘i exporting over $3.8 million worth of goods to the Philippines in 2013.
Savannah Shih is a research intern at the East-West Center and a graduate student of Asian Studies at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.