China Strengthens Ties with the Philippines

Today, the Philippine-Chinese relationship is stronger than ever. However, throughout history, it has been well known that the Philippine is a close friend of the United States. The Americans were patronized well and did not have any problem setting foot in the Philippines. Things changed when the current Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte came in office as he won the elections by a landslide and lead Filipinos to think twice about Nationalism and what it meant for him to love their country. The Philippine President was once criticized for how he talked about former US President Obama, as he used inappropriate terms in this conversation. It was obvious that Duterte was not fond of the former President himself. Duterte didn’t like the idea of how much Filipinos patronized Americans and how much they valued their favor over what policies are being implemented in the country.

It was his position to fight for sovereignty, not that the Philippines does not need the US anymore, but for him, the Republic of the Philippines should be able to decide for the best interest of his countrymen without being questioned or blocked by the super power. Duterte’s standpoint was clear in his pursuit to defend peace and order in the Philippines in ways that are questionable to the US in term of human rights violation. As such, there arose a decrease of favor towards the Americans. Only recently, in Trump administration news last April 2017, did the US-Philippine alliance start to regain its momentum as current US President Trump reached out to Duterte, acknowledging the good of his efforts to fight Drugs.

The strengthened ties between China and the Philippines was first witnessed during the visit of Philippine President Duterte to Chinese President Xi Jin Ping (October 2016), which followed Durterte’s expression of feelings towards the former US administration, under the leadership of Obama. It cannot be said in certain that this rekindled relationship is exactly the effect of keeping the distance from the United States, although may be speculated so. In the said meeting, Duterte has expressed his intention to strengthen ties with China, as if the only thing that was hindering this relationship was the strong Filipino-American Bond over the course of history. Chinese President Xi Jin Ping also expressed the same desire to strengthen the ties between the two countries. Because of the said news, some Filipinos again became very skeptic due to the territorial issue regarding the Spratly Island. Some were troubled by the idea that befriending the Chinese also compromised the Filipinos territorial rights over the Spratly Island. However, this issue was then vaguely addressed in a sense that President Duterte just wanted to start a good relationship with China and that the said issue was not part of the discussion in his first trip to China as the President of the Philippines.

The rekindled relationship brought about several benefits to the Filipinos most especially in the railway sector as new rail projects will already be implemented under Duterte’s term supported by Chinese funding. Most of the projects will be implemented under the Official Development Assistance (ODA) scheme or Chinese contractors participating in the Public Private Partnership (PPP). The biggest rail project to be funded by China is the Mindanao Railway Project which has always been the top priority of the President Duterte, considering that he is from Mindanao and all existing and operating rail lines are currently Located in Luzon. In addition, the North-South Railway Project Connecting Metro Manila to Bicol, as well as Metro Manila to Clark City, is also in the pipeline. The restoration of the Philippine-China Relationship can be seen as strategic, as China has been interested in investing in infrastructure projects. On a more important note, the perception of Filipinos towards China is also likely to improve as these projects directly address the country’s major economic problem – the lack of a new and reliable mass transit system.