Friends for long

The US and the Philippines have long been friends. The former colonized the latter through the Second World War and has been a dedicated source of financial aid and jobs since then. Meanwhile, the US gets a highly sought after geopolitical presence in Southeast Asia due to its longstanding relationship. The US Trade Representative informs that “The United States and the Philippines have had a very close trade relationship for more than a hundred years.”

Of the 26.7 billion pesos (USD $1.3bn) of foreign investment in to the Philippines in Q3 2016 shown in the graph below, 17.2% came from the US.

A change in the relationship?

After close trade and political ties for so long, the two countries seem to be revisiting their relationship status.

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The change began with the Rodrigo Duterte government which took office in the middle of 2016. The President’s definitive and extrajudicial crackdown on the drugs menace in the country has been the primary cause of friction between the two nations.

The erstwhile Obama administration was sharply critical of the government’s approach to tackling the drug problem by literally taking the law in their own hands. Since taking office, over 6,000 people have been killed in the war on drugs.

In December 2016, the US deferred providing further economic aid to the Philippines under the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s campaign to reduce poverty due to the rule of law situation in the country. “A commitment to just and democratic governance” is important for the corporation to provide funding to a nation.

On his part, Duterte has been exceedingly vocal about his anti-US rhetoric and has threatened to block military cooperation. Since 2002, the Philippines has been getting technical and advisory help from the US in the island of Mindanao. In a recent article by Forbes, Duterte was quoted stating that as long as “we stay with America, we will never have peace…We might as well give up,” while taking about the struggle on the island.

Further, Duterte’s remarks on former President Barack Obama had led to the U.S. cancelling a scheduled meeting between the two leaders last year.

No reaction from the US

Until now, the U.S. administration has not reacted to the views of Duterte. Apart from showing restraint, this composure could also indicate the importance of political ties with the Philippines for the U.S..

However, the Trump administration may be the harbinger of change in the relationship. Let’s look at this aspect more closely in the next article.

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