Time to Examine Our Relationship with the Philippines and Spread the Wings
On May 9, 2016 the Philippines elected Rodrigo Duterte to the office of President of the Philippines. A little over a month later, on June 30th, he was inaugurated and immediately made good on his promise to address the country’s drug problems—often overtly endorsing extrajudicial killings as an appropriate way to handle what he sees as an epidemic. When the international community questioned Duterte’s methods, he reacted in brash fashion, to include calling the US Ambassador’s sexual orientation into question with a derogatory remark.
And Duterte’s acerbic talk gets worse and worse. In early September, as a precursor to an ASEAN scolding from Obama, Duterte referred to the US President, in Tagalog vernacular, as a “son of a whore”. Just a few days later, Duterte demanded that US Special Forces leave southern Mindanao. On September 29, the Philippine President announced that the upcoming PHIBLEX would be the last joint exercise between the Philippines and the US.
Against the backdrop of domestic upheaval, the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) issued a ruling, in favor of the Philippines’ claims against China’s West Philippine Sea aspirations, on July 12. Despite the ruling in favor of the Philippines, Duterte has vowed to open a dialogue with China, going as far as to send ex-President Fidel Ramos, to see his old cronies in Hong Kong, in early August 2016.
But that’s not all. Apparently there are arms deals in the works with both China and Russia. Unfortunately, Duterte’s increasing mercurial behavior is cause for concern, and could potentially reduce US access to a vital, geo-political region.
Since the “Pivot to the Pacific” was declared in 2011, during the ASEAN