President Duerte in a somewhat expected move – denounces the United States of America. For what exactly he did this in exchange for, we do not publicly know. But, no doubt assured financial and economic Chinese backing played a role, as well as a tolerance for corruption and black market dealings (drugs). In turn, the Chinese are that much closer to securing the South China Sea. If they haven’t done so, already.

This occurred after a litany of insults were thrown our way as Duterte attacked President Obama. In an equally strange event, Duterte ordered Special Forces out of the south of his country. This denouncement and formal alliance with China isn’t surprising. But it’s troubling nonetheless.

The past is filled with bitter fighting between the two countries, China and the Philippines. But – no more. Duterte may have sold his own people out for his own benefit. That or he’s made a calculation to side with China for the long run and end result for his country. He might be right and we’ll just have to wait and find out. However, this couldn’t happen at less inopportune time. We’re bogged down in Middle East, while we aren’t in a large conventional and open conflict, we’re very busy with what resources we have. We do maintain a strong presence in Southeast Asia but it appears that our ‘pivot’ to Asia wasn’t in time. We lost an important ally.

The Philippines had been such an active zone with extremists and western partnership since Operation Enduring Freedom I never would have guessed this event could’ve happened. But, it did, and I think we might want to re-evaluate our relationship, and identity, and what else is bursting at the seams. All things seem to be cyclical in life and the Philippines may come crawling back. Yet, it won’t be anytime soon, and this is an opportunity for China to continue their global flex and even some military and special operations partnering. There remains a counter terror threat in the region. China could begin to emerge in the war on terror. It would provide much needed training for their special operations forces, support, and logistical elements.

We’re naive if we think China is a friend. Duterte denounced the U.S. and our previous economic and military relationship in a speech to business execs in Beijing. The announcement earned him great applause. I am sure the deal and the event earned Duterte the ability to return home, cash in hand and somewhat a hero to his people. They can believe they will have a break from economic hardship and begin anew with an emerging superpower.

But, this agreement is not necessaryily reflective of the Filipino people. The new Sino-Filipino relationship may be met with skepticism by its people, a culture that is very much tied to American culture.  “It is inexplicably at odds with the very close relationship that we have with the Filipino people, as well as the government there, on many different levels, not just from a security perspective,” John Kirby, the State Department spokesman, said.

As it was, China’s rush to claim the South China Sea is partially what propelled a stronger U.S. – Filippino relationship. But, after a short time in office Duterte has undone it all. Will this cause unrest that will lay dormant as a sleeper cell until Duterte is vulnerable?

Featured image courtesy of Global Risk Insights.

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