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PH-China ties unlikely to improve further: Next president won’t continue Duterte’s cozy ties with Xi due to strong anti-Chinese voter sentiment

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Global investment risk watcher Fitch believes the next president will not be as accommodating as President Rodrigo Duterte to China President Xi Jinping.

“While Duterte’s support remains strong, as proved by the strong mandate he received in mid-term elections in May, domestic opposition to closer ties with China is also strong,” said Fitch in its latest Philippine outlook.

In a July 2019 survey by Pulse Asia-Fitch on how much Filipinos trust other countries, 80 percent of respondents don’t trust China compared to 10 percent who does not trust the United States. “With Duterte now into the second-half of his presidential term ending 2022, his future successor may take an alternate approach to ties with Beijing, given voter sentiment. As such, the long-term direction of relations between the two countries remains somewhat uncertain and will depend on the policy-continuity under Duterte’s successor,” Fitch said.

“Additionally, strong domestic opposition to Chinese influence and continued military cooperation with the US in the SCS (South China Sea) may limit the extent to which Philippine-China ties improve. While Duterte and Xi met for the fifth time in three years last August, the Philippine continued to conduct military drills with the US and participated in the first US-ASEAN military exercise in September.

“The presence of the US military operations so close to Chinese waters will continue to be a source of concern for Beijing,” Fitch said.

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