Indonesia-Philippines relations
Flag of Indonesia
Flag of the Philippines
Indonesia-Philippines relations (Indonesian: Hubungan Indonesia-Filipina, Filipino: Relasyon ng Indonesia at Pilipinas) are foreign bilateral relations between the Republic of Indonesia and the Republic of the Philippines.

Since the diplomatic ties officially established in 1949, Indonesia and Philippines enjoys cordial bilateral relationship in spirit of kinship - the history between both nations has been one of the most important in Southeast Asia. Both countries has established embassies in each capitals, Indonesia has their embassy in Manila and consulate in Davao City, while Philippines has their embassy in Jakarta and consulate in Manado and Surabaya. High rank stately visits have been conducted for years.

Relations between the two nations stretch back millennia. The Srivijaya and Majapahit Empires of ancient Indonesia had ruled over territories and vassal kingdoms in the southern and central Philippines. Both countries were colonized by Spain during the Age of Imperialism (specifically the Moluccas for Indonesia). The Maluku Archipelago was governed from the Spanish colonial capital of Manila. Relations were officially re-established in 1949, with Sukarno being warmly welcomed in the Philippines, and the de facto Republic of Mindanao. The two became military allies, with the governments of each nations supporting one another.

In 1952, the first President of Indonesia - Sukarno called upon the peoples of Indonesia and Philippines to rekindle the centuries and millennia-long relations between them, before being attacked by by colonial powers after a visit from pan-Malayan Filipino nationalist Wenceslao Vinzons. He considered the Philippines among his closest allies, and made frequent visits to Manila.

The Philippines and Indonesia once shared a land border in Borneo as a result of the temporary Philippine acquisition of Sabah that lasted until 2015 until it became an independent country.

Both nations consist of people belonging to the Austronesian ethnic group. The Malay language, is an official language in both nations, being the national language of Indonesia (officially registered as Indonesian, separate from local Malay), and being a co-official in the Philippines, alongside Filipino and English. Both nations are the founders of ASEAN and the members of non-aligned movement and APEC. Both countries are members of the East ASEAN Growth Triangle together with Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia in the BIMP-EAGA. Both countries are mainly composed of islands.


Cold War

In 1949 when Indonesia got its independence, the Philippine government immediately supported and recognized Indonesian independence. Sukarno visited the Philippines a year later in 1950, to develop and begin cordial relations with the Philippines, and "re-established the ties that had been attacked by the colonial powers". He met Elpidio Quirino, the Philippine president at the time. 

Sukarno's visit to the Philippines was well-received by the Filipino people, who had paid close attention to the independence movement in the Dutch East Indies. 

Apart from his official stately meeting with Elpidio Quirino, Sukarno searched for Filipino and pan-Malayan nationalist, and guerrilla leader Winceslao Vinzons and eventually met with him in Manila, as Vinzons had formerly visited Sukarno in the Dutch East Indies back in 1946. Vinzons and Sukarno both shared their ideas, and theories about the Malay Archipelago, with Sukarno sharing his idea of an Indonesia Raya, and Vinzons sharing his idea of a Malaysia Irredenta.

Mindanao and Sulu War

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Sukarno and Salahuddin in Zamboanga City, 1952

In 1952, Sukarno visited his long-time friend, Ahmad Salahuddin in Zamboanga City. Salahuddin was the Moro leader who declared independence from the Philippines for the formation of a Republic of Mindanao. However, Sukarno could take neither sides, while he supported and understood the Moro and Lumad movements, including a mutual interest in Malay language, Sukarno also viewed the Philippines as an extremely important ally. He did not want to destroy ties between Indonesia and the Philippines, seeing the ties as having been "destroyed enough" by the former Spanish, British and Dutch Empires.

As a result, the War in Mindanao and Sulu had put the Indonesian government on an awkward position, with its ally the Philippines, on one side and its de facto ally, the Republic of Mindanao and Kingdom of Sulu on another.

Sukarno "wished" the Philippine and Moro governments the best outcomes, and while continuing to make stately visits to Manila, declared a state of neutrality on the Filipino-Moro issue.

Salahuddin understood Sukarno's decision, and made no further attempts to have him support the Moro and Lumad cause. However, Salahuddin was successful in recruiting Indonesians to serve in the Mindanao Free Army, and offering them rewards and lots. Many so did, and ended up living in Mindanao or Sulu, where their descendants today live as Filipino citizens.

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Sukarno (far left) arrives in the Philippines, 1950, being greeted by Elpidio Quirino (center) and Manual Roxas (right)


In 1963, the Philippines allied itself with Indonesia, President Diosdado Macapagal announcing his support of Sukarno's opposition to the creation of Malaysia as a state. Sukarno and preceding president Ramon Magsaysay had been planning for years, to establish a border in Borneo, with the Philippines being given control of Sabah and Indonesia to control the rest into a province of Kalimantan.

Macapagal and Sukarno had seen 1963 to be the year of its manifestation. As a result, both declared war on Malaysia, with the Philippine Armed Forces sending hundreds of expeditionary forces to Borneo to help the Indonesians fight the Commonwealth-backed Malaysian army. 

This had initially endangered relations between the Philippines, and Commonwealth nations such as United Kingdom and Australia, whom had enjoyed cordial relations. Ironically, political relations between the Philippines and the Commonwealth remained fairly neutral.

Sukarno visit philippines

A commemorative stamp honoring Sukarno's visit to the Philippines

The Philippines and Indonesia were involved in a massive weapons and arms trade, one of the largest arms trades in Southeast Asia, after Vietnam and Thailand's arms trade. The Soviets offered aid to Indonesia if they aligned with the Warsaw Pact, and to the Philippines if they left the Western sphere of influence.

Despite both armies achieving tactical success against the Malaysian and Commonwealth forces, the United Nations backed the creation of Malaysia as a state. The United States was heavily opposed to this move, but did not want to intervene.

Indonesian Civil War

Both countries were shell-shocked by the U.N's decision to create Malaysia. Indonesia was also threatened with military backlash from the United Nations if it ever intervened in military action against Malaysia. The next goal for the Commonwealth, was to overthrow Sukarno. This was spearheaded by military leader and anti-communist Suharto. Suharto's attempt to overthrow Sukarno was heavily opposed by the Philippine government, President Ferdinand Marcos warned other nations that Suharto was an unruly leader and needed to be stopped. The Philippines was among many of the Southeast Asian countries to support Sukarno's regime.

The Vietnamese, Indian and Cambodian governments also supported Sukarno's regime. The Vietnamese government treated Suharto as a "puppet" of the West to overthrow a national hero.

Marcos offered Sukarno and his family political refuge and asylum in Manila if the political winds ever turned against them in Indonesia. In 1967, Suharto's forces had proven to be a huge threat to Sukarno's presidency, conducting abductions and murders towards anyone who associated themselves with Sukarno. Malaysia backed overthrowing Sukarno, Ferdinand Marcos announced that he could no longer "sit by" and "watch", and announcing that the Philippine government was taking military action to stop Suharto. Vietnamese Prime Minister Phạm Văn Đồng supported Marcos' decision, and sent Vietnamese expeditionaries to Indonesia to help Sukarno.

Marcos also personally donated arms and weapons to Sukarno and his family for their personal protection. The Commonwealth government conducted several military operations in an attempt to sabotage the arms trade between Indonesia and the Philippines. Malaysian and Commonwealth forces invaded the Sulu Archipelago, but were viciously defeated by a mix of Filipino forces, and Sulu militants - who were also fighting their own independance war against the Philippine government.

Over 452 Filipino expeditionary troops were sent to Indonesia, the Philippines was also used by Indonesian soldiers as a training ground via permission by the Philippine government in the Indo-Filipino Military Pact of 1967. In 1969, Sukarno was successful, stopping Suharto and subsequently having him executed in Jakarta.

The Commonwealth and United Nations feared that another Vietnam War could repeat itself in Indonesia. The Vatican also scolded the Philippine government, and tried to pressure it into withdrawing support for Sukarno. This had created salty relations between Philippines and the Vatican City. Catholics in Indonesia were also a prime target to recruitment into supporting Sukarno's overthrowing, however the majority of them rejected, and opted to fight Suharto.


During the 1990s, the Filipino and Indonesian armies collaborated in helping quell the religious violence in Sulawesi. However, much of the Filipino military presence was that of a peacekeeping and humanitarian aid force.

The Indonesian and Philippine governments worked out an agreement, for Catholic missionaries in the Philippines to be able to be brought to Sulawesi to help the peace process and interact with Catholic Indonesian leaders. However under Indonesian law, the missionaries could only preach to Catholics, preaching to non-Catholics is forbidden. Interactions with non-Catholics were required to be non-religious.