Analyst: Duterte will have difficult balancing act with China, US

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - May 15, 2016 - 9:28pm

MANILA, Philippines — Presumptive president Rodrigo "Rody" Duterte will finding it challenging to handle country's relationships with China and the United States when he assumes office, an analyst said.

Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in an interview with a New York-based radio station that Duterte will have a "difficult balancing act."

"He's going to want to put good relations in  the US and Japan but I think he's also going to want to improve relations with China and try to use this complex situation to benefit his country and his people," Glaser said.

Glaser said that China is not in favor of alliances among Asian nations and that it would try to "drive a wedge" between Manila and Washington.

"The relationship between (President) Aquino and the Chinese government really had soured considerably ever since the Philippines took this case against China in January '13 and I think the Chinese are looking for a way to pull the Philippines back to Beijing and away from the United States. This is something that the Chinese are quite concerned about," the analyst said.

The analyst, however, noted that the Filipinos are angry about the South China Sea dispute but they are more concerned about the issues in the country including poverty, crime, corruption and lack of social services.

Glaser added that Duterte was elected due to his promises in resolving the country's most pressing concerns.

"I think the people of the Philippines are angry but I don't think they are angry so much about the South China Sea... People want better governance and so I think people are mostly angry about the situation at home," Glaser said.

Dismayed with the US

Duterte had earlier expressed dismay with the US government for pulling out a British-American man involved in an explosion in Davao City in May 2002.

The Central Intelligence Agency allegedly whisked away Michael Terrence Meiring without facing charges for keeping explosives in a room at Evergreen Hotel in Davao City.

According to a report from the STAR, Duterte felt it felt it was an insult to him and refused to meet American ambassadors who came to Davao City since the incident.

Meiring is a treasure hunter who might have been using explosives to dig for buried treasure around Davao. He still owes the hotel P250,000 for his accomodation and has been in and out of the country in the past decade.

The British-American suffered from third-degree burns and broken legs after the explosion that damaged several of the hotel's 52 rooms.

Meanwhile, De La Salle University Prof. Richard Heydarian noted that the country's relations with the US are expected to remain robust in Duterte's administration.

"Given the United States’ huge favorability among the Philippine security establishment, media, and populace, no Filipino leader can afford to alienate Washington without suffering significant political backlash," Heydarian said in his article published by CSIS.

The Duterte administration might also demand greater clarity on the extent of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the US, according to Heydarian.

"In short, a Duterte presidency could mean playing the United States and China against each other without necessarily siding with either camp. Depending on the issue at hand, he will also explore greater cooperation with other external powers," Heydarian said.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration under the United Nations is expected to issue its ruling on the Philippines' case against China's nine-dash line claim by this month. Beijing had refused to participate in the proceedings of the arbitration.

China earlier expressed its hope that the next Philippine president would adopt "well-thought" policies leaning towards them.

RELATED: Think tank: Duterte admin should continue to challenge China

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