THE ISAFIS NEWSLETTER #3: Fortifying the Battlements: New Zealand Joins Philippines in South China Sea Dispute

Published by ISAFIS on

Written by:  Rangga Aria Wijaya

First the US, then Australia, then Japan, and now New Zealand—the Philippines seems to be fortifying its power by forging alliances with numerous formidable nations, all to counter the looming threat of China in the South China Sea dispute.

Cooperation between Philippines and New Zealand

On June 10th, Republic of the Philippines Defense Assistant Secretary Marita Yoro signed a Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (MLSA) with Royal New Zealand Navy Acting Deputy Chief Commodore Maxine Lawes (PNA, 2024).

Reason of State

The actions of the Philippines are a direct response to China’s new maritime rules, announced on May 15th, which direct their coast guard to detain foreign nationals for up to 60 days without trial if they cross borders set “unilaterally” by China (Royandoyan, 2024).

As many know, China claims almost 90% of the South China Sea, but an international tribunal in The Hague has rejected this claim, stating that it ignores the territorial claims of other countries in Southeast Asia such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei which also have overlapping territorial claims with China (Ratcliffe, 2024).

Current Situation Regarding The Issue

Now, under the MLSA signed between the Philippines and New Zealand, the two states will provide each other with logistical support during joint military exercises and training, humanitarian assistance, and disaster response operations (Maitem, 2024). 

As of June 18th, 2024, there has not been any official response from China regarding the MLSA between the Philippines and New Zealand. However, this action is likely to provoke further reactions from China, as these alliances threaten its position in the disputed territories.

Let’s hear what ISAFIS members say about this issue!

Karendra Yazid Anas – IOS

As a realist, I see the Philippines strategy as a practical way to maintain the balance of power in the South China Sea. By forging alliances with powerful nations like the US, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand recently, I do believe the MLSA is a pragmatic step in enhancing the Philippines defense capabilities.

Nicolas Yap – FAIR

In facing the threat of unilateral claims made by China over the South China Sea, the Philippines has adopted the right strategy by signing the MLSA and engaging in military cooperation with several developed countries. Through these efforts, the Philippines can balance its power against China and maintain its security and sovereignty in the South China Sea region.


Maitem, J. (2024, June 12). Will Philippines’ New Defence Deals with New Zealand, Japan Provoke China? South China Morning Post.

PNA. (2024, June 10). PH, New Zealand Strengthen Defense Ties with Signing of MLSA. Philippine News Agency.,Secretary%20Enrique%20Manalo%20said%20Monday.

Ratcliffe, R. (2024, June 14). Philippines Increases South China Sea Patrols as Beijing Set to Roll Out New Trespass Laws. The Guardian., R. (2024, June 14). China’s New Maritime Rule to Take Effect; Filipinos at Risk, Experts Say. Nikkei Asia.


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