In the realm of foreign policy, the Duterte administration has pursued what has been termed by the media as the “pivot to China” policy, i.e. pursuing close relations with Beijing despite overlapping claims in the South China Sea (SCS)—a stark contrast to the frosty bilateral ties under President Aquino. Indeed, shortly after Manila received a favorable ruling from an arbitral tribunal, Duterte made an official state visit to China where he was warmly received and where he forged various economic deals with Beijing.
Some analysts view Duterte’s moves as bandwagoning with China—an observation reinforced when Manila announced its “separation” from the US, which Duterte clarified later as separating from the economic and military policies of Washington in the region. Duterte’s China initiative has raised concerns in some quarters that Manila is pursuing close relations with Beijing at the expense of its allies and partners. As former top diplomat Albert del Rosario candidly argued: “a close alliance, or valued partners and friends, are suddenly cast aside to favor another state.”
Is the Duterte administration really joining China’s bandwagon? Is the new Philippine government casting aside its treaty ally and partners in favor of China?