US-Philippines relations

A Philippines coast guard personnel looks at the Chinese Coast Guard vessel as they come close during a mission to deliver provisions at Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea on 10 November 2023. (Jam Sta Rosa/AFP)

It's not about fear: What drives the Philippines’ response in the South China Sea

Philippine academic Robert Joseph P. Medillo says that rather than looking at the Philippines’ reactions to China’s actions in the South China Sea from the prism of fear, one can understand it as standing up to a major power, through building a collective of like-minded states that can rally together to press for transparency and accountability from China.
Philippines and US soldiers salute in front of their national flags while their national anthems are played during the opening ceremony of the 'Balikatan' joint military exercise at the military headquarters in Quezon City, suburban Manila on 11 April 2023. (Ted Aljibe/AFP)

US new military bases: China-Philippine relations on downward spiral?

China takes a dim view of Manila’s decision to grant the US access to four military bases. While the two allies have framed the arrangement as bolstering deterrence vis-à-vis China, such a move is unlikely to deter Beijing.
A sailor stands on the deck of the USS America (LHA-6) amphibious assault ship docked at a port in Manila, Philippines, 21 March 2023. (Adrian Portugal/Reuters)

US and China fight for influence in strategic provinces of the Philippines

The locus of superpower rivalry in the Indo-Pacific has gone down to the subnational level. The US and China are engaged in a power competition for influence within local governments in the Philippines, not least in the Cagayan area.
Philippines and US officers link arms during the opening ceremony of US-Philippines Arm-to-Army exercise at Fort Magsaysay, in Nueva Ecija province, north of Manila on 13 March 2023. (Ted Aljibe/AFP)

Is Philippine President Marcos Jr swinging too far back to the US?

The Marcos Jr administration’s defence cooperation policy that hews closer to the US is facing domestic criticism, even from his sister. China is also growing increasingly uncomfortable with recent moves between the Philippines and the US, and posturing that suggests that the Philippines could be enlisted to part of the "China containment club".
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (centre) is seen on a video screen as he salutes in front of the troops during the 87th anniversary celebration of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, at the military headquarters in Quezon City in suburban Manila on 19 December 2022. (Ted Aljibe/AFP)

It's hard for the Philippines to stay neutral in a Taiwan contingency

In the event of hostilities in the Taiwan Strait, Manila’s defence treaty with the US will give it little room to manoeuvre. Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s recent visit to China underscores his intent to have a constructive relationship with China, and it remains to be seen how the Philippines will navigate its relationships with both the China and the US.
People shop at a public market in Manila, Philippines, 22 November 2022. (Lisa Marie David/Reuters)

Does stoking anti-Chinese sentiment yield political gain in the Philippines?

In the Philippines, digital disinformation campaigns have become central to electoral politics. Unfortunately, their use of vitriolic and socially divisive techniques has become increasingly normalised in the country’s politics, as these techniques are put into play even between national voting seasons.
US President Joe Biden meets with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York City, US, on 22 September 2022. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

Can the Philippines stay neutral in a Taiwan Strait military confrontation between the US and China?

Philippine academic Renato Cruz De Castro asserts that the Philippines will have to fall back on the strength of the Philippines-US alliance in the face of a possible US-China armed stand-off in the Taiwan Strait.
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.