The World Today for March 19, 2024


Friends With Benefits


American Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo recently joined executives from GreenFire Energy, Google Asia Pacific, Visa, United Airlines and KKR to announce $1 billion in investments in the Philippines. It was the latest good news between friends.

American and Philippine leaders signed a mutual defense treaty 73 years ago, reported Reuters. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., whose father ruled the country as a dictator for more than 20 years through 1986, has leaned heavily on his country’s alliance with the US.

The US, for example, is funding the construction of a civilian port on Batanes, a group of islands in the channel separating the Philippines from Taiwan to the north, added the South China Morning Post. This port facility could prove useful for evacuating Philippine citizens who might flee Taiwan if China invaded. It could host military personnel, too, of course.

Marcos has been turning to other friends, too. In the past two years, the Washington Post wrote, the Philippines has signed new defense agreements with Britain, the European Union and India. Canada, France and Japan may soon conclude deals to station their troops in Philippine bases, too.

These diplomatic missions occurred after a series of concerning interactions in the South China Sea, such as when a Chinese coast guard ship shot a military-grade laser at a Philippine coast guard vessel recently, CNN reported. Chinese ships have also harassed Philippine resupply vessels headed to Second Thomas Shoal, where a beached boat represents the Philippines’ territorial claims to the area, explained the New York Times.

These and other incidents are signs of both sides “maneuvering for advantage” in the region as the Philippines flexes its muscles, argued World Politics Review. Marcos’ predecessor, ex-President Rodrigo Duterte, attempted a friendlier approach to China but gained little benefits from that policy.

American and other international help, for example, could now help the Philippines exploit the oil wealth that sits under the seabed in the region, wrote Bloomberg.

Philippine leaders are jockeying to take credit for these policies or deflect past ones.

Marcos and Duterte, who were formerly allies, are now feuding. Duterte, for example, recently called Marcos a “drug addict,” reported the Associated Press, his favorite insult. Marcos, in turn, suggested that Duterte might still be taking the fentanyl that he admitted to using in the past as a pain medication following a motorcycle accident.

Marcos’ vice president, Sara Duterte-Carpio, meanwhile, is Duterte’s daughter, noted Al Jazeera. She has been trying to keep the two sides together, since presently she is best poised to replace Marcos when he steps aside after his single term ends in 2028.

She might, as analysts predict, have to split the baby.

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