PHILIPPINES: Seeking 'balance' on US, China ties

He may have been called the "Donald Trump of the Philippines", but the equally brash-talking President- elect Rodrigo Duterte will likely hit it off better with Mrs Hillary Clinton, analysts say.

Mr Jose Antonio Custodio, a defence analyst and former consultant of the US military, said the two men would create "excitement" because there would be "a lot of theatrics". But their relationship would also be unpredictable.

"Trump is theatrical. If there's an incident, Trump may respond in kind," he said.

Mr Custodio said Mr Duterte, by being unpredictable with his foreign policy, especially on China, is seeking to balance US and Chinese influence on Philippine affairs.

"The US has been patronising, condescending. By being unpredictable, Duterte will be a source of concern, and so they will have to treat him with a little more respect," said Mr Custodio.

"It's more equi-balancing vis-a- vis Beijing and America," said political analyst Richard Javad Heydarian, of De La Salle University.

He said a softer policy towards China is unlikely to drive a wedge into the US-Philippine alliance, no matter who is elected president.

"The US pivot is comprehensive and is not anchored by a single ally. The real regional vortex is Singapore, Japan and Australia, not the Philippines," he said.

Mr Luis Limlingan, an analyst with Regina Capital Development, said with the two men having very similar personalities, "they will likely clash on different issues".

"Clinton can probably handle Duterte better. She has more policy experience, and it will be easy for them to reach agreements," he said.

Raul Dancel

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 15, 2016, with the headline 'PHILIPPINES: Seeking 'balance' on US, China ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe