Philippines: Standing ground amid great power competition

President Rodrigo Duterte heads to China for his fifth visit, amid accusations that he has been too soft on China and its regional ambitions

President Rodrigo Duterte heads to China this week for his fifth trip there since becoming president. He has promised to raise the 2016 United Nations tribunal ruling in the Philippines case against China, which largely found in the Philippines' favour, during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Whether this will be any more than a token attempt to placate domestic factions who are unhappy with his conciliatory approach to China is unclear. Mr Duterte broached the South China Sea when he was in China attending the second Belt and Road Forum in April. But Manila was expecting more than US$18 billion (S$25 billion) worth of deals to be signed and he did not push the issue after Mr Xi reiterated that Beijing did not recognise the tribunal award.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2019, with the headline 'Philippines: Standing its ground amid great power competition'. Subscribe