A New China Policy for the Philippines Post-2016?

July 20, 2015 / ChinaUS Focus

by Lucio Blanco Pitlo III

Leadership change may augur policy shifts in the arena of diplomacy and foreign policy. It is in this light that the upcoming 2016 Philippine Presidential elections deserve attention, as it may have a significant bearing on future Philippine foreign policy directions, including on the management of the territorial and maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and overall Philippines-China relations. Indeed, because of recent developments, foreign policy, especially dealing with China, may just become a major electoral issue that the Filipino public would like to hear from aspiring Presidential candidates.

The possible outcome of the legal challenge initiated against China’s expansive nine dash line claim and China’s recent building of artificial islands in some WPS features will cast a long shadow in the calculus of the next Philippine national leader. At the same time, the emergence of the world’s second largest economy not only as a huge proximate market and trade partner, but also as a key outbound investor and financier for infrastructure projects, presents immense opportunities that can be tapped to address the country’s needs. Therefore, the next Filipino leader must skillfully balance the demands of upholding territorial integrity, maritime entitlements, and national security with economic imperatives and the need to maintain harmonious relations with neighbors. He/she would have to weigh in and navigate through competing interests of various constituencies, balance continuity with flexibility to suit prevailing conditions, make necessary compromises without losing sight of core national goals and most importantly ensure that the best interests of the country are served. This is no easy feat, but all these challenges comes with being the country’s chief foreign policy architect. Read more...

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