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1/19/2017

[FNPFPORIGINAL]TheFirst100Days:DecodingManilasForeignPolicyTowardsChina|ForgingaNewPhilippineForeignPolicy

[FNPFPORIGINAL]TheFirst100Days:
DecodingManilasForeignPolicy
TowardsChina
Author:MicoGalang
Date:Thursday,December1,2016
7October2016markedPresidentRodrigoDutertesfirst100daysinoffice.Inhisbriefstint,Dutertehasundoubtedly
stirredcontroversyoverthecountrysforeignrelationsbecauseofhistiradesanduseofexpletives.Withhiscabinet
membersclarifyingthePresidentspronouncements,thegovernmenthastoflipflop (http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/decoding
dutertephilippineleadersflipflopssowconfusion/)oncertainissues,suchasthreateningtowithdrawmembership
(http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/08/21/1615797/dutertethreatenswithdrawphilippinesunhitsus)fromtheUnitedNations.

Nevertheless,Duterteappearstohaveacoherentforeignpolicyinonekeyissue:PhilippineChinarelations.Although
wideranging,tiesbetweenthetwocountrieshavebeenconsumedbytheSouthChinaSea(SCS)issue.Daysafter
Dutertesinauguration,adecisioninthePhilippinesvChina (https://pcacpa.org/wpcontent/uploads/sites/175/2016/07/PHCN
20160712PressReleaseNo11English.pdf)casewentlargelyinManilasfavor.Butinstarkdeparturefromhispredecessors

approach,thenewgovernmentspolicytowardsBeijinghasbeenlargelyclear:torepairandeventuallypromotea
stablerelationshipwithChinathroughstrategicengagement.Thusfar,itappearsthatthispolicyhasthreekey
components.
First,thegovernmenthastoneddownitsrhetoricvisvisChina,especiallywithrespecttotheoutcomeofthe
arbitration.Earlyinhispresidency,Duterteannounced (http://www.mb.com.ph/duterterevealsnotauntorflauntchinapolicy/)thathe
willneithertaunt[n]orflauntafavorableverdict.Thus,ForeignSecretaryPerfectoYasaymerelysaid
(http://www.dfa.gov.ph/newsroom/dfareleases/9900statementofthesecretaryofforeignaffairs2)thatManilawelcomesthetribunals

decisionandcalledforrestraintandsobriety.AlthoughDutertesaid (http://www.gov.ph/2016/07/26/the2016stateofthenation
address/)herespect[s]theoutcomeofthecase,hisgovernmenthasnotdirectlycalledonChinatocomplywiththe

rulinganapparentacknowledgementoftherulingsunenforceability.Thiscalibratedresponsehasbeenevidentin
thePhilippinesforeignengagements,suchastheASEANMinisterialMeetingwhereManilaapprovedaJoint
Communiqu (http://asean.org/storage/2016/07/JointCommuniqueofthe49thAMMADOPTED.pdf)thatdidnotmakedirectreferenceto
thetribunalsruling.
Significantly,thePresidenthascalled (http://globalnation.inquirer.net/143372/dutertetochineseenvoytreatusasyourbrothersnotenemies)
ontheChinesetotreat[Filipinos][as]yourbrothersandnotenemiesaclearbreakfromhispredecessorsstrong
statement(urlhere)ofcomparingChinatoNaziGermany.Clearly,thisislargelyanattempttopreventapossible
backlashfromChinaaftertheissuanceoftheruling,whichhasdiplomaticallyembarrassedBeijing.
Second,MalacaanghaspushedforbilateraltalkswithChina.TheDuterteadministrationhasplacedemphasis
(http://www.gov.ph/2016/07/15/presidentrodrigoroadutertesspeechduringthesanbedalawalumniassociationtestimonialreceptionclubfilipinosan
juancity14july2016/)ontheutilityofthismodalityinthemanagementofdisputes.Perhapstosignifyhisintentionto

bilaterallyengageChina,DurteteappointedformerPresidentFidelRamosashisspecialenvoytoBeijing.Describing
hisroleasicebreaker,RamosvisitedChinainAugust2016andexpressedtoChineseofficialsthePhilippine
governmentsintention (urlhere)toholdformalbilateraltalkswithBeijing.
Third,theDuterteadministrationhasemphasizedtheneedtocooperatewithChinaonotherissues.Evenbefore
assumingoffice,DutertehasbeenopentoenhancingtradeandinvestmenttieswithBeijing.Atonepoint,the
Presidentevensuggested (http://news.abscbn.com/halalan2016/nation/04/11/16/dutertewillingtobackdownonseadisputewithchina)thatif
ChinaassiststhePhilippinesinthelattersinfrastructureinitiativeshewouldshutupabouttheSCSdispute.
Onitspart,ChinahaswelcomedtheforeignpolicyoverturesofthenewPhilippinegovernment.InSeptember,
ChineseViceForeignMinisterLiuZhenmindescribed (http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/09/15/1623998/tiesturningpointchinatells
philippinedelegation)SinoPhilippinetiestohavereachedanewturningpoint.Indeed,Chinarecentlyliftedtheimportban

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1/19/2017

[FNPFPORIGINAL]TheFirst100Days:DecodingManilasForeignPolicyTowardsChina|ForgingaNewPhilippineForeignPolicy

onbananas,oneofthekeyPhilippineproducts.Thebanwasplacedattheheightofthe2012Scarboroughincident,
reportedlybecauseofphytosanitaryconcerns(http://www.rappler.com/business/5333phbanana,anyonegovtseeksotherexportmarkets)
.Moreover,ChinaisalsoassistingthePhilippinesinitsantiillegaldrugscampaignthroughtheconstructionof
rehabilitationfacilitiesfordrugusers(http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/09/10/1622341/rodychinahelpingphilippinesfightvsdrugs).
Witha91%trustrating (http://www.rappler.com/nation/140318dutertetrustratingjuly2016)atthebeginningofhisterm,Dutertehas
investedhugepoliticalcapitaltoimprovetieswithBeijing.AgainstthebackdropoftheSCSdispute,manyFilipinos
have,accordingtoapoll(http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/07/19/1604383/sws51pinoyshavelittletrustchina),littletrustinChina.
Inthiscontext,apossiblespoilertoDutertesChinainitiativeistheoccurrenceofafuturecrisissimilartothe2012
ScarboroughShoalincident,thatmayinflamenationalistsentimentswhich,inturn,couldmountpressureonDuterte
especiallyifhistrustratingssliptotakeaharderstance.Thusfar,itappearsthatthereislittlechanceofthis
happeninginthenearfuture,withDuterteexpressinghiscommitmenttoforgerobusttieswithBeijing.Nevertheless,
thegovernmentmustworkcloselywiththemediaduringsuchincidentsinordertomanagetheflowofinformation
thus,preventingasuddenoutburstofnationalistemotionsthatmayconstraintheconductofnegotiations.Thisisto
preventtacticalsituationsfromconflagratingintoamajorforeignpolicycrisis.Moreimportantly,Manilamustwork
closelywithBeijingindevelopingmechanismstopreventor,ifithappens,managesuchcrises.Amongothers,
suchmechanismsmayincludecommunicationhotlinesandagreedrulesofengagement.
Fornow,alleyesareonPresidentDutertesupcomingOctobervisittoChina.Whateveritsoutcomesmaybe,
Dutertesvisit,hisfirstpresidentialforeigntripoutsideSoutheastAsia,willberememberedashisadministrationsmajor
diplomaticattempttorepairrelationswithChina.TimewilltellifthistripwilltrulymarkthebeginningofastableSino
Philippinerelationship.
MicoA.GalangisagraduatestudentattheUniversityofthePhilippinesDiliman(UPD),whereheispursuingaMaster
inInternationalStudies.Theviewsexpressedaretheauthorsownanddonotnecessarilyreflecttheofficialposition
ofanyorganizationheisaffiliatedwith.

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