October 27, 2018

Time for a 21st-century PH-US alliance

By Patrick M. Cronin and Richard Heydarian

Of all the alliances in the Asia-Pacific today, there is none more underappreciated than that of the Philippines and the United States. And there is no line that better captures the essence of this century-old alliance than Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr’s immortal refrain: “The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.”

Over the past two years, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly threatened to downgrade, if not sever, bilateral strategic relations with the United States. This was partly driven by disagreements over human rights issues, especially in light of his scorched-earth drug war, which has alienated Western partners and put into question the Philippines’ democratic credentials.

Yet, Mr. Duterte’s fast and furious call for an “independent” foreign policy was also driven by a legitimate desire to diversify Manila’s foreign relations and, accordingly, reduce its historical dependence on Washington. Seeking rapprochement with China, the Philippines’ most powerful neighbor, formed the core of Mr. Duterte’s new foreign policy approach.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s perceived unilateralism, unleashing trade wars against both foes and friends and occasionally questioning the value of traditional alliances in the region, has raised concerns over Washington’s commitment to upholding the liberal order in Asia.

Read the full article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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