Will Duterte repair PH-China relations?

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 25 2016 04:58 AM

MANILA - A political analyst expects incoming president Rodrigo Duterte is set to repair the Philippines' foreign relations with China, which had been strained by the dispute over the West Philippine Sea.

Writing for Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, political science professor Richard Javad Heydarian said Duterte is expected to "adopt a more pragmatic and constructive foreign policy, especially towards South China Sea disputes."

According to Heydarian, Duterte's willingness to hold dialogues with China proves the tough-talking leader's pragmatic foreign policy outlook.

"For Duterte, development imperatives trump deterrence, thus his explicit welcoming of massive Chinese investments in the Philippines' infrastructure landscape," Heydarian said.

“In fact, the Chinese ambassador was among the first dignitaries that Duterte met after his stunning election victory," he added.

BALANCING ACT

Despite renewed relations with China, Heydarian believes Duterte will maintain the Philippines' direct line to Washington.

"Despite his well-known association with leftist-communist groups, and his efforts to reach out to China, the incoming president cannot afford to alienate America, which exerts huge influence on the Philippine security establishment," Heydarian explained.

"Duterte will most likely maintain robust security relations with America, particularly in the realm of counter-terrorism," he added.

Heydarian pointed out that US President Barack Obama was the first head of state to publicly congratulate Duterte on his victory.

Duterte is expected to strike a balance between the country's relations with both China and the United States, putting the neophyte state leader's geopolitical mettle into the test.

"The Duterte administration’s priority will be to maintain balanced relations with both China and America, refusing to jump into one camp against the other," remarked Heydarian, adding Duterte "could end up as a more adept player in the regional geopolitical landscape than his aristocratic predecessors."