Expert says up to PH leaders to see opportunity whoever wins 2020 US Presidential elections

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 04 2020 06:34 PM

MANILA — An international studies expert on Wednesday said it is up to Philippine leaders to turn situations into opportunities, whoever sits in the White House.

De La Salle University’s Renato de Castro said the question now is how Filipino leaders would recognize the policies United States would put forward after the elections, and whether these pose as challenges or opportunities. 
“They will advance American national interest. Ang challenge here [is] how our decision-makers will be able to recognize whatever their policies, as challenges or opportunities… Then of course, there is the element of willingness on our part of how we could take advantage of those challenges,” de Castro told ABS-CBN News on Wednesday afternoon as the 2020 US Presidential elections were still underway.

Unlike with former US President Barack Obama, President Rodrigo Duterte enjoyed a warm relationship with US President Donald Trump who did not criticize the country’s controversial drug war. 

The US-Philippine military alliance also remained robust, with the US sending help during the Battle of Marawi in 2017.

Duterte also decided to keep the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) of the two countries after initially taking the step to abrogate it early this year.

“The personal rapport between Donald Trump and President Duterte more or less salvaged the alliance that was on a brink of a breakdown,” said de Castro. 

Early in his administartion, Duterte said Manila is breaking away from its traditional ally Washington as it forges closer ties with China and Russia.

De Castro pointed out that should Democratic challenger Biden defeat Trump, Duterte’s personal rapport with the US may no longer be there. 

“This is my take: If you have Joe Biden as the next President, whether he will raise the issue of human rights or criticize President Duterte for the extrajudicial killings, he would have to take into account the strategic competition with China. But this is my bet: the personal rapport will not anymore be there,” he said. 

Under the Trump administration, the US explicitly recognized the 2016 arbitral ruling on the South China Sea and called on China to abide by it. The award invalidated China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

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Washington also put in black and white its obligation to support the Philippines under their Mutual Defense Treaty signed in 1951.

Jose Manuel Romualdez, the Philippines' ambassador to the US, earlier said there could be a shift in foreign policy and on the economic situation if Biden wins.

He said while the Philippines was not invited to the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, the country had been hoping to forge a bilateral trade agreement with the United States. 

Negotiations for this are currently on hold, but will likely move forward if Trump wins a fresh term.

Washington is Manila's longest and only treaty ally. The two countries trace their relations to the time the former colonized the latter before the turn of the 20th century until 1946.