Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced his "separation" from the United States on Thursday, declaring he had realigned with China as the two agreed to resolve their South China Sea dispute through talks. Duterte made his comments in Beijing, where he is visiting with at least 200 business people to pave the way for what he calls a new commercial alliance as relations with longtime ally Washington deteriorate. "In this venue, your honors, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States," Duterte told Chinese and Philippine business people, to applause, at a forum in the Great Hall of the People attended by Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli. "Both in military, not maybe social, but economics also. America has lost."
Duterte's efforts to engage China, months after a tribunal in the Hague ruled that Beijing did not have historic rights to the South China Sea in a case brought by the previous administration in Manila, marks a reversal in foreign policy since the 71-year-old former mayor took office on June 30. His trade secretary, Ramon Lopez, said $13.5 billion in deals would be signed during the China trip. "I've realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world – China, Philippines and Russia. It's the only way," Duterte told his Beijing audience. (Reuters)
I think it’s safe to say that we have been out-pivoted in the South China Sea. Yes, we are left luffing in the breeze as Xi and Duterte sail to the East on a broad reach. We can kiss off Subic Bay for good this time. I wonder how the business community of Olangapo will adjust to the inevitable future presence of the PRC Navy?
Duterte said he will stop joint military exercises with the US. He also opposes joint patrols of the South China Sea with the US. US officials insist the current treaty alliance, dating back to the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, remains in effect. Will the Filipino government go along with their President? How far will our government go to keep the treaty alliance and our hold on the Philippines alive?
I spent a couple of weeks in the Philippines back in 1978 during the first "Tempo Caper" joint exercise. We were based on the USS Cleveland in Subic Bay. I enjoyed it immensely, although I could have done without being knocked out of my hammock by a roaming carabao one stormy night. A year later I met my Filipino Army counterpart at my RECONDO school back in Hawaii. He greeted me like a long lost brother. I'm sure there are a lot of this kind of personal "mil to mil"relationships today. What will become of them?