US-Philippines relations

This handout photograph taken and received on 6 July 2022 from the Philippines' Presidential Photographers Division (PPD) shows Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (2L) paying a courtesy call to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (2R) at Malacañang Palace in Manila. (Philippines' PPD/AFP)

The China factor and ‘Bongbong’ Marcos’s foreign policy

While it is too early for his foreign policy platform to fully emerge, the Philippines' new president will have his hands full in calibrating Manila’s relationships with Washington and Beijing. It is not a foregone conclusion that he will lean strongly in either direction. This is in the context of continuing issues such as the South China Sea, with disputes over the Whitsun Reef and Second Thomas Shoal.
Philippine Marines fold a Philippine national flag during a flag retreat at the BRP Sierra Madre, a marooned transport ship in the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, 29 March 2014. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Can the next Philippine president stand up to Chinese pressure in the South China Sea?

The winner of the 2022 Philippines presidential elections will determine how the Philippines will handle its legally recognised claims in the West Philippine Sea both domestically and in the regional arena. While current President Rodrigo Duterte has gone against public sentiment several times with his relatively friendly stance towards China, his successor will have to decide how to handle Chinese maritime actions that put pressure on smaller neighbours in Southeast Asia.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) and Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (right) shake hands after a bilateral meeting at Camp Aguinaldo military camp in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, 30 July 2021. (Rolex Dela Pena/Pool via Reuters)

Mind the gaps, fill the needs: A strategic outlook for the Philippine-US alliance

The Philippines begrudgingly notes the disparity of treatment across US alliances in Asia, as well as Washington’s shift to enhancing engagements with non-treaty partners, such as visits by top US leaders to Singapore, Hanoi, Seoul, and Tokyo, while leaving out Manila. Washington has also shifted to enhancing engagements with alliances such as AUKUS, even as Philippines-US cooperation seems to be deficient in several areas and in security, greatly focused on counter-terrorism operations in Mindanao. Academic Julio S. Amador III says the Philippines must step up to play its part and articulate its key interests better.
Philippine Coast Guard personnel are seen onboard rubber boats as they sail near Chinese vessels believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel at Whitsun Reef, South China Sea, in a handout photo distributed by the Philippine Coast guard 15 April 2021. (Philippine Coast Guard/Handout via Reuters)

Philippine-US cooperation on Whitsun Reef: A 'win' for the Biden team in Southeast Asia?

Southeast Asian views of the US declined during the Trump administration, and persisted into the Biden administration early on in the year. But Washington’s sustained support for Manila amid the latter’s recent confrontation with China in the South China Sea has helped to offset negative perceptions of Uncle Sam in the region.
This file photo taken on April 21, 2017 shows an aerial shot of a reef in the disputed Spratly islands. (Ted Aljibe/AFP)

SEA states have few options to mitigate escalating South China Sea tensions

Tensions in the South China Sea have surged since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. China has pressed its jurisdictional claims prompting the US to increase its criticism of Beijing’s actions and its military presence in the South China Sea. In response to China’s activities, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have rejected Beijing’s nine-dash line claims and invoked international law and the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling in support of their maritime sovereign rights. ISEAS academic Ian Storey takes stock of the situation and gives a broad sweep of what we can expect in the next 18 months.