Philippine Security Relations with the United States and Japan Under Duterte: Bending, not Breaking 

by Lucio Blanco Pitlo III/ October 10, 2017/ Originally posted at AMTI

With improved Sino-Philippine relations post-arbitration, an opening with Russia, and seemingly positive momentum on ASEAN-China Code of Conduct negotiations, one could envision a shadow looming over the Philippines’ longstanding defense cooperation with the United States and recently burgeoning cooperation with Japan. But the reality is more nuanced. With threats to sever or downgrade security relations with the United States alongside a courting of non-traditional security partners China and Russia, how will the Philippines’ security relations with established partners proceed under President Rodrigo Duterte? Continue reading “Philippine Security Relations with the United States and Japan Under Duterte: Bending, not Breaking “

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No Sea-Change as ASEAN Turns 50

by Lucio Pitlo III / Aug 22, 2017

Originally Posted at China-US Focus

ASEAN meetings almost always generate expectations of raising the South China Sea (SCS) disputes to the point where the success of the meeting boils down to how tough the adopted language is in the final official statements. Considering the breadth and depth of issues covered by ASEAN in its annual meetings, such reduction is unfortunate and unfair. Continue reading “No Sea-Change as ASEAN Turns 50”

Deconstructing Duterte’s West Philippine Sea policy

by Lucio Pitlo III , June 27, 2017 / Originally posted at APPFI

President Duterte had been criticized for appearing soft in defending Philippine national interests in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), especially in the face of his decision to expand cooperation with a fellow disputant and potential external security threat. Such criticism largely rests on two key assumptions: 1) that asserting the country’s landmark victory in the 2016 arbitration decision is the best way to defend the country’s WPS interests and canvassing regional and international support is the best way to pressure China into compliance and; 2) maintaining robust or even deepening security relations with the US is the best deterrence against Chinese expansionism in the tightly contested strategic and resource-rich sea. Continue reading “Deconstructing Duterte’s West Philippine Sea policy”

Emerging Consistencies in Philippine Foreign Policy Amidst Continuing U.S.-China Frictions

by Lucio Pitlo III / Apr 27 , 2017 / Originally Posted at ChinaUSFocus

Although critics often point to the apparent discrepancies and unpredictability in Philippine foreign policy as expressed by its chief architect, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, several emerging consistencies can be gathered. In the same vein as other countries that opted not to spell out the specifics of their foreign policy strategy, especially on critical and sensitive issues, in order to have ample room for maneuver and negotiation, these incipient consistencies have yet to be formally articulated in a coherent form, more so applied in reference to a certain foreign policy priority. Although not definitive, an appreciation of some of these nascent consistencies can give one a better outlook of the continuously evolving Philippine diplomacy. Furthermore, beyond his infamous rhetoric which surely played a lot in getting him Times’ 2017 Most Influential Person Award, Duterte’s actions, by and large, resonate as regional responses to the brewing US-China tussle. Continue reading “Emerging Consistencies in Philippine Foreign Policy Amidst Continuing U.S.-China Frictions”

Mutual Gains, Not Shared Values: The New Normal in International Relations?

by Lucio Pitlo III, March 21, 2017/ Originally Posted at AllChinaReview

Much talk about the evolving global political and economic landscape largely ignores the major underlying factor driving this transformational shift, namely the growing emphasis on mutual gains rather than shared values as a fundamental basis for state relations. Shared values is losing its appeal and several reasons account for it. Continue reading “Mutual Gains, Not Shared Values: The New Normal in International Relations?”

Philippines’ warming ties with China and Russia: Opportunity, not concern

by Lucio Pitlo, III, 30 January 2017/ Originally Posted at APPFI

Shared values and resolve to defend territorial integrity and maritime rights had long undergirded Philippine foreign policy which may help explain longstanding ties with traditional allies US and Japan. Hence, the country’s warming relations with China and Russia was considered astonishing, if not a game changer. The country does not share affinity in political ideals with these two and, in the case of China, it even has unresolved disputes over the West Philippine Sea (WPS). One may think that the country is pivoting away from its traditional allies into the fold of incompatible partners for uncertain ends or that one of Asia’s pioneer liberal democracies is anxiously drifting away from its identity. However, despite the rhetoric, a careful examination will reveal that the new Philippine government’s move is driven more by conflict avoidance and economic considerations rather than attempts to redefine the country’s politics and international alignment though President Duterte supports federalism and a more independent foreign policy. Potential change in US government disposition towards Russia under the Trump Presidency may have also played a part. Continue reading “Philippines’ warming ties with China and Russia: Opportunity, not concern”

Crossing the Rubicon by Feeling the Stones: Calculated Balancing Between Major Powers

by Lucio Pitlo III / Nov 16, 2016 / Originally posted at ChinaUSFocus

Despite being just past 100 days in office, President Rodrigo Duterte had already put his country, the Philippines, under global spotlight. Reactions to his leadership style ranged from praise and fascination to criticism and suspicion. Elected by more than 16 million people – more than 6 million votes ahead of his next contender – he has definitely garnered enormous publicity, not only at home, but also abroad, thanks to his grassroots appeal, and decisiveness, unorthodox leadership approach. Critics tend to harp on his rough demeanor – his penchant for expletives and seeming non-observance of protocol and formalities – and lack of coherent vision. He has also been criticized for creating unnecessary uncertainty in Philippine foreign relations that exacerbates regional anxiety and adversely affects politico-security dynamics in the Asia-Pacific. But beyond his strong populist rhetoric are clear elements of a national foreign policy grounded on Philippine domestic imperatives and evolving regional and global architecture. Continue reading “Crossing the Rubicon by Feeling the Stones: Calculated Balancing Between Major Powers”

Of Claims and Freedoms: Diverging Perspectives on the South China Sea

BY LUCIO BLANCO PITLO III | OCTOBER 27, 2016 /  Originally Posted at ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE

Power differentials between states affect how they view and respond to the South China Sea disputes. Small powers largely see them as a clash of unilateral territorial and maritime claims over all or part of the semi-enclosed sea, whereas big powers frame them in a more strategic manner – a contest for control over a critical international waterway. Small powers focus on immediate and direct concerns like resource access, whereas big powers stress universal freedoms of navigation and overflight. Lumping claims and freedomstogether muddles and complicates the resolution of South China Sea disputes. Disaggregating them, however, may allow for opportunities to tackle part of the dispute separately. Continue reading “Of Claims and Freedoms: Diverging Perspectives on the South China Sea”