Published 5 Oct 2016 11:14 Lowry Institute
It is early days, granted, but the Philippines’ crude and crass new president Rodrigo Duterte appears increasingly intent on reversing his predecessor’s plucky South China Sea policy and pro-Alliance leanings, opting instead for a tilt towards China.
The Philippines’ proclivity to flip-flop in its great power relations reflects various factors. One is the absence of a strategic tradition. This is evident in the priority accorded by Duterte to domestic challenges over external security, even when the latter extends to China’s strategic encroachment within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, a legal violation explicitly flagged by The Hague arbitral ruling. Another is the disproportionate attention occupied by the US, Manila’s treaty ally. This has a distorting quality, be it along ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ alliance lines.