Duterte’s Scarborough Shoal Moment

Three years into his quiescent China policy, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte is experiencing a rude awakening in the South China Sea. The ongoing Chinese siege of the Philippines’ largest land feature in the Spratlys, Thitu Island, represents Duterte’s greatest foreign policy crisis and, ironically, the very country he has courted assiduously is at the heart […]

China’s Economic Cabbage Strategy

The blossoming Philippines-China relationship has opened a floodgate of Chinese investments, unnerving domestic players including the influential military establishment. In particular, China’s bid for a 300-hectares shipping yard in Subic Bay, the former site of one of the United States’ largest overseas naval bases, has unleashed a political firestorm, exposing the fragility of the ongoing rapprochement and the resilience of Beijing-skeptic sentiments in the Southeast Asian country.

Duterte Faces Domestic Resistance

Observers often attribute contradictory statements from the Duterte administration to the natural byproduct of having such a notoriously mercurial character as commander-in-chief. What this conventional strand of analysis misses is the fact that Duterte and his generals are in a constant low-intensity struggle over shaping the Philippines’ policies on sensitive territorial and strategic issues.

Duterte’s Uncertain China Gamble

Breaking with tradition, the Philippines’ controversial leader Rodrigo Duterte chose China for the first major state visit of his presidency. Traditionally, Filipino leaders have visited “all-weather” friends such as Washington or Tokyo before Beijing. This time, however, the Filipino president decided to postpone a scheduled visit to Japan in favor of China, while signaling strategic […]

Duterte’s Colorful Diplomatic Debut

The Philippines’ newly minted president couldn’t have asked for a more high-profile diplomatic debut when he attended this week’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, which saw the participation of the leaders from across the Asia Pacific, including the United States, Japan, China, Russia, and India, along with the secretary-general of the United Nations. […]

Can Ramos Break the Ice in Philippines-China Relations?

Consistent with his campaign promise, the Philippines’ new president Rodrigo Duterte has stepped up efforts to mend ties with China, despite the latter’s flagrant rejection of the Philippines’ recent law-fare victory at The Hague. Duterte has deputized no less than former president Fidel Ramos, who also dealt with Chinese maritime assertiveness in the mid-1990s, to […]

Sunnylands and America’s Pivot to ASEAN

  China may be gaining the strategic upper-hand in the ongoing scramble in the South China Sea thanks to its newly-built artificial islands, but it is facing increasing backlash in the region. Neighboring states as well as external powers have stepped up their diplomatic pressure on Beijing, while coordinating their efforts at safeguarding freedom of […]

Regional Summits and the South China Sea: Wading Into the Storm

Ahead of this month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and ASEAN summits, regional maritime tensions have taken a dangerous turn, potentially setting off a new round of confrontation between relevant powers. A month after the meeting of Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping in Washington, during which the two leaders signed off on new confidence-building measures […]

Philippines’ Lopsided South China Sea Policy

More than any country in the region, the Philippines has sought to protect its territorial integrity through “lawfare” (legal warfare), taking China to the court over maritime disputes in the South China Sea. Perturbed by China’s growing assertiveness across disputed waters, evident in its expanded para-military patrols, massive reclamation activities, and regular military drills in […]

The Battle of The Hague: Philippines v. China in the South China Sea

The Philippines’ lawfare (legal warfare) against China has reached a critical juncture. More than two years after initiating compulsory arbitration against China, the Southeast Asian country faces the crucial task of proving that the Arbitral Tribunal, formed under the aegis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), has the mandate […]

Vietnam and the Philippines: Spoke-to-Spoke Alliances in the South China Sea

As far as China’s designs in the South China Sea are concerned, there is little sign of compromise on the horizon.  Not only has China openly declared its commitment to “active defense” of its interests in adjacent waters, and also dangled the option of imposing an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the area, but […]

Showdown at Shangri-La: Confronting China’s Maritime Ambitions

China is far from a monolithic power. Its rapid ascent has transformed it into both a centripetal force of integration as well as a centrifugal force of fragmentation. Earlier this year, China managed to pull off a major strategic coup against the United States (U.S.) by astutely convincing almost all relevant economies in Asia and […]

South China Sea: Forging a Maritime Coalition of the Willing

China’s expansive and accelerated construction activities in the South China Sea have elicited growing criticism from across the region and beyond. While some countries, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines, are primarily worried over the impact of China’s reclamation activities on their maritime claims in the area, other countries, from Singapore to Japan and the United […]