With Rodrigo Duterte winning Philippines presidential election, there is now widespread concern as to what will happen next in the country’s territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea. More importantly, would the new Philippine president break away from allies like the U.S. and Australia?
Duterte has long voiced out that his view on the issue along the South China Sea is different. A few years ago, a Philippine delegation decided to take the matter to the international tribunal, The Hague, in the hopes of China’s aggressive advance in the disputed Scarborough Shoal.
It seems the country’s next president doesn’t believe in tribunals or arbitration. Instead, he prefers that the Philippines will come into a certain arrangement with Beijing.
According to a report from the Washington Post, Duterte had suggested back in February that he is willing to drop the issue for some time if the Chinese would build railroads in his own home region.
“Build us a railway just like the one you built in Africa, and let’s set aside disagreements for a while,” he explained. Moreover, Duterte was also quick to admit that an international tribunal would not do any good in this matter while saying that he has “a similar position as China’s”
At the same time, Duterte has also said that he favors the idea of pursuing bilateral talks with China so that the two countries can possibly explore natural resources in the area together. “If negotiations will be in still waters in one or two years, I will talk to the Chinese,” he remarked.
Nonetheless, one cannot forget the promise this Davao mayor made when it comes to the dispute territory and a jet ski. Duterte once said, “I will go there on my own with a Jet Ski, bringing along with me a flag and a pole, and once I disembark, I will plant the flag on the runway and tell the Chinese authorities, ‘Kill me.’ ”
Aside from this, Duterte may have also managed to destabilize the relationship between the Philippines and Australia. His joke about raping a nun angered Canberra and the new Australian ambassador did not hesitate to share her criticism of Duterte on Twitter.
Instead of an apology, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Duterte had told the ambassador to “shut up.” Moreover, Duterte’s camp would later issue an apology for the joke but the Davao mayor would also later admit that he never bothered to read it.
These remarks come to light while the U.S. is already making good in its promise to deploy more troops and increase its presence in the Philippines in the face of Chinese aggression.
In fact, just a day after the Philippine election, a U.S. navy ship sailed its way close to the disputed reef, prompting China to respond by scrambling its fighter jets. According to a report from Reuters, the navy ship was guided missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence.
Meanwhile, it seems China has been listening to Duterte all along. Chinese state news Xinhua had said Duterte will be entitled to a “fresh chance to find a win-win solution” with regard to Philippines dispute with China along the Soutch China Sea.
He is also being encouraged to “cast aside his predecessor’s unilateral practices,” which has only caused more trouble and “aggravated the situation.”
Moreover, the statement also claims that the Philippines may be less confrontational now when it comes to this issue.
It read, “Filipinos may have come to realize that a die-hard confrontation will do no one any good.” And in case Duterte is listening now, China says, “The door for dialogue remains, as it always has been, open.”