Well, the US and the Philippines are just wrapping up joint military drills. And it’s a bit bittersweet. Like the last days of high school. You and your girlfriend tell each other you’ll totally stay in touch. That nothing can keep you apart. But deep down, you both know it’s over. Because let’s face it, the US and the Philippines are drifting apart. Times have changed. And you’ve coupled together for the last time.
I think the Philippine Defence Minister said it best.
It’s part of growing up. Sure, some harsh words have been said. And there’s been regret.
But also, forgiveness.
And then some more harsh words.
Because the Philippines is seeing someone else, and it seems the relationship with the US is over. Under their new president Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines is cozying up to China. Because China is sooo much more supportive.
Well, whatever. The US is totally fine with it. I mean, if you love something, let it go, right?
But this period of…experimentation and self-realization, may not turn out too well for the Philippines.Because if you hook up with China, well, Xi ain’t gonna treat you right! So why is President Duterte leading the Philippines towards this risky—if exciting—new relationship with China?
It’s related to two major issues in the Philippines right now. One is the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
This is the Scarborough Shoal.
The Philippines and China both claim it. And they have nearly come to blows over it. The Chinese coast guard has at times blocked Filipino fishermen from the region, and even fired their water cannons on them. Then China alleged Filipino fishermen threw firebombs at their ships.
The Philippines did recently win a major victory, though. In July, a UN Tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines, saying China has no right to a large part of their claim in the South China Sea, including the contested Scarborough Shoal.
And US President Barack Obama had the Philippines’ back. Before the ruling, Obama had “[warned] the Chinese leader of serious consequences if China reclaimed land at Scarborough Shoal.” But after Duterte became president…
And ahead of Duterte’s upcoming trip to China, he said he’s not even going to bring up the Scarborough Shoal. Why? Because the Philippines, “can’t win.”
Why the 180? Well, it has to do with the second big issue in the Philippines right now: Duterte’s war on drugs. In an attempt to rapidly solve the Philippines’ drug problems, he’s gone after both drug dealers and users. More than thirty-three hundred people have been killed in just a few months. Of course, some drug users are being rehabilitated. For example, by organizations having them build coffins.
The US has been one of many governments expressing serious concern over the extrajudicial killings of not just drug dealers, but also drug users. And Duterte has not taken the criticism of his anti-drug campaign well. Look, the Philippines does have a very serious drug problem. The previous president wasn’t able to do anything about it. That could be one of the reason why Duterte is so popular inside the Philippines.
And I get why distancing yourself from the United States has appeal. For years, the Philippines was basically a US colony. My favorite Filipino dish, sizzling sisig, basically exists because the only meat people could afford were discarded pig heads sold by US troops. Pig heads it turns out, are delicious.
But China is a bad alternative. China and Russia are also carrying out joint military drills in the South China Sea. And while China might agree to let Filipino Fishermen in, doesn’t that sound more like they’re granting Filipino fishermen access to Chinese territory?
And as for war on drugs, well, President Duterte, you said it yourself.
It means, Xi ain’t gonna treat you right.
So what do you think of the President Duterte “breaking up” with United States for China? Leave your comments below.