Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth visit in Beijing highlights again the country’s— or rather the President’s warm ties with China.
The Philippines has seen a gradual shift in its foreign policies since Duterte has taken over the most powerful position in the country. From the once loyal ally of the US, the country has seen itself aligning with its closer neighbor – and global power, China. The gradual shift is so clear that Duterte’s fifth visit to China, and zero to the US, highlights the Philippines’ policy realignment.
This friendly stand of President Dutere towards China has earned countless criticisms from his own citizens. Filipinos have been critical of Duterte’s refusal to enforce the rights of the Philippines to its own economic zone.
With all the friendly gestures that Duterte has shown towards China, domestic criticisms have snowballed.
Duterte said that he will bring up the issue to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Is this the stand that his citizens have been waiting for? Not really. Duterte said that he would do this in a way that wouldn’t anger Beijing. It’s a balancing act from the president to somehow satisfy his citizens while not offending China.
According to a private pollster Social Weather Station or SWS, 87% of Filipinos agree that the President should assert the country’s right to its sea claim.
Everybody might think that the Philippine President’s popularity has eroded due to his coziness with China. However, according to SWS, the president, in fact, is still popular among his citizens. Recent surveys showed that 80% of adult Filipinos are happy with Duterte’s performance.
What’s at Stake?
It appears that the friendship between the two countries has a lot at stake. In his first visit to China in 2016, Duterte managed to secure around $24 billion in investment and financing pledges from China.
The fund was what Duterte needed, according to the experts, to push his administration’s key infrastructure plans in the Philippines. But the fact lingered that only a fraction of the promised $24 billion had been materialized.
Another reason why President Duterte believes it’s beneficial to stay friends with China is the lucrative oil and gas exploration project in the disputed sea. It’s fascinating to know that the project is right exactly in the Philippine economic zone – that not surprisingly, China also claims.
The two Presidents agreed for joint cooperation in exploring possible oil and gas in the disputed area.
Also read: US-China Trade War Getting More Dreadful