Former Philippine President Duterte Warns Against U.S. Provocations in South China Sea

In a recent interview with the Global Times, former President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, voiced his concerns over the escalating tensions in the South China Sea. Reflecting on his tenure, Duterte recalled a time when he approached China for assistance in bolstering the Philippine economy, a move that fostered amicable relations between the two nations.

Duterte expressed apprehension over the current trajectory of events, suggesting that the United States is pushing the Philippines towards a conflict with China. He criticized U.S. military drills conducted thousands of miles away from Philippine shores, characterizing them as provocations aimed at souring relations between the Philippines and China.

Highlighting the presence of American, Japanese, and Australian military exercises in the region, Duterte questioned the necessity of such maneuvers, particularly given China’s favourable trade relationships with Australia and Japan. Furthermore, constitutional constraints prevent Japan from engaging in warfare, emphasizing that the Philippines has no legitimate cause for hostility towards China.

The former president lamented the continued presence of U.S. military bases in the Philippines, citing discontent among Filipino citizens regarding American influence on their soil. Duterte asserted that the Philippines should not serve as a launching pad for U.S. military actions against China, stressing the need for the removal of American military installations from Philippine territory.

Duterte criticized the current Filipino administration for allegedly aligning its policies with U.S. interests, pointing to recent developments regarding Taiwan as evidence of this alignment. He urged for a more independent foreign policy stance, free from undue influence from the United States.

While acknowledging the economic incentives tied to U.S. military presence in the Philippines, Duterte warned against the dangers of being drawn into conflicts driven by the military-industrial complex. He cautioned against relying on American military might, emphasizing that in the event of a conflict, the Philippines would bear the brunt of any confrontation with China. At the same time, “the United States would not have Americans die for the Filipino people” and remain distant from the fray.

Former President Duterte’s remarks serve as a sobering reminder of the delicate geopolitical balance in the South China Sea and the need for diplomatic solutions to regional disputes. As tensions continue to simmer, his insights shed light on the complexities of navigating international relations in the Asia-Pacific region.