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Weekly Issues: The US-Philippines Society’s Partnership with the Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia Forum

William M. Wise

Chair of the Southeast Asia Forum at the Stimson Center

The partnership between the US-Philippines Society and the Philippines Roundtable — begun at Johns Hopkins-SAIS more than a decade ago – resumed this year as part of the new Southeast Asia Forum at the Henry L. Stimson Center, a leading Washington think tank. 

           The Philippines Roundtable is Washington’s premier discussion group on Philippine affairs and U.S.-Philippine relations. Working in tandem with the Society, the Roundtable provides a venue for members to exchange views with diplomats, defense and foreign policy officials, legislators, academics, journalists, NGO leaders, and businesspersons interested in the Philippines. During its long tenure at JHU-SAIS, the Roundtable hosted former Philippine President Fidel Ramos, key Philippine senators, Philippine and U.S. ambassadors, scholars from U.S. and Philippine universities and think tanks, and journalists from leading media organizations. The Roundtable’s partnership with the Society and new home at the Southeast Asia Forum at Stimson ensures the continuation of a dedicated space for regular discussions of the Philippines in Washington.

           The Southeast Asia Forum is an ideal setting for Philippines Roundtable meetings, whether in-person or on-line. The Forum’s mission is to promote and expand the study of Southeast Asia at colleges, universities, and research centers, as well as to encourage public discussion of important regional issues. In addition to supporting the Philippines Roundtable and other Southeast Asia discussion groups, the Forum will be an information resource for U.S. and international students planning to study Southeast Asia in the U.S. The Forum’s database will also help students currently in the U.S. to identify Southeast Asia-related internships in the Washington, DC area and to find summer internships in Southeast Asia. 

           The Southeast Asia Forum plans an active schedule of meetings and events. Activities will focus on the interests of students and faculty at Washington colleges and universities and those of researchers at think tanks, embassies, and the U.S. Government. Most Forum events will be open to the public, including all meetings of the Philippine Roundtable. Discussions at Stimson are held under Chatham House non-attribution rules, assuring all participants the chance to speak freely on controversial issues. (During the Coronavirus pandemic all Southeast Asia Forum events are being held via Zoom Webinar and are on-the-record.)

           The first Philippines Roundtable meeting under the aegis of the Southeast Asia Forum took place at Stimson on March 9. Professor Bill Wise, Chair of the Southeast Asia Forum, conducted an hour-long interview with Philippine Ambassador Jose M. “Babe” Romualdez. The discussion included virtually every subject on the U.S.-Philippines agenda from the future of the Visiting Forces Agreement to the state of the economy, President Duterte’s war on drugs, and the initial effects of COVID-19 in the Philippines, and more. 

           On April 30 the Forum sponsored a webinar on the Coronavirus in Southeast Asia. Among Professor Wise’s panelists was Rene “Butch” Meily, president of the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation. The recording of that webinar is available at the Stimson Center website ( In June Southeast Asia Forum webinars will address the post-pandemic political, economic, and security environment in the region.

           The COVID-19 pandemic presents an indisputable challenge to the Philippines Roundtable and the Southeast Asia Forum. On-line discussions will never bring the energy and intimacy generated by in-person exchanges. Communications limitations reduce the frequency of meetings and events. But opportunity lies in our current circumstances, too. Electronic media allow the expansion of the Philippine Roundtable audience and extension of the Southeast Asia Forum’s reach to the U.S. West Coast and the Philippines. Without the need to be in Washington to participate in Philippines Roundtable events, more voices can be heard. The US-Philippines Society’s partnership with the Southeast Asia Forum at Stimson opens new possibilities for discussion of issues that matter to Filipinos and Americans. The Philippines Roundtable is ready to meet the challenge.

About the Author

William M. Wise is the Chair of the Southeast Asia Forum at the Stimson Center. He retired as Practitioner-in-Residence at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (JHU-SAIS) in July 2019. Prior to his 20-year academic career, which also included teaching at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, he served for 30 years in the U.S. Air Force. His final assignment was as Deputy National Security Advisor to Vice President Al Gore. 

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