Following Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s comments Monday that all U.S. troops in the country’s southern region of Mindanao “have to go,” an analyst recently posited the president’s move is an indication of the Philippine citizenry’s desire to move away from the West and toward China.
“A considerable segment of the population in the Philippines does not want to see foreign troops, including U.S. troops, in the Philippines,” Dr. Joseph Chang told Radio Sputnik.
Chang theorizes much of President Duterte’s decision regarding the removal of U.S. troops in the Philippines is rooted in his status as a populist leader, and that appeasing his electorate will “establish his credentials as a nationalist president.”
Dr. Chang also noted Duterte’s wish to “reduce the Philippines’ dependence on the U.S. in the security arena” and“improve economic ties with Beijing.” Chang further suggested Duterte may even desire to “attract foreign aid from Beijing to the Philippines.”
On Monday, Duterte continued his verbal assault against the United States — he recently called President Obama a “son of a bitch” — by claiming many of the problems the Philippines have with Muslim insurgents in the southern Mindanao region have to do with the U.S. military’s very presence there.
“I do not want a rift with America, but they have to go,” the president — who is from the Mindanao region — said during a speech in Manilla, citing the U.S. military’s bloody history in the Philippines and the animosity many citizens still feel because of it.
This sentiment was echoed by the president’s spokesperson, Ernesto Abella, in a statement issued by the Philippines News Agency.
Citing that statement, USA Today writes:
Abella also pointed to lasting resentment over the U.S. military campaign in 1906 that led to the slaughter of hundreds of Muslims in the southern Philippines. Duterte has criticized the United States for failing to apologize for the bloodbath.
Concluding, Abella said in the release: “Hence our continued connection to the West is the real reason for the ‘Islamic’ threat in Mindanao.”
The Philippines became a colony of the United States in the late 19th century, a status which lasted until the 1940s. Since that time, the U.S. has been an ally of the Southeast Asian country. The military presence in Mindanao referred to by Duterte was put into place in 2002 for the purported reason of fighting the Muslim insurgency group Abu Sayyaf.
The Philippines’ desire to move toward China comes at a time when the two nations are attempting to find common ground on the issue of territorial claims in the South China Sea. In a case brought by the Philippines, an arbitration court at The Hague ruled in July that China did not, in fact, have sovereign claim to the vast majority of those waters.
Progress toward cooperation has been made in recent weeks, however, with China appearing more willing to work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, including the Philippines, on issues of shared responsibility for the South China Sea.
In an August article in the state-run Global Times, China’s Vice Foreign Minister was quoted as saying that both ASEAN and China are “aware that they hold the key to solving the South China Sea issues, given the increasingly complicated situation, especially interference from outside forces.”
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