by Gregory B. Poling
"As such, it is understandable that when Duterte announced a “separation” from the United States, both in economic and security relations, most Filipinos were as shocked as their US counterparts. I was in Manila at the time sharing in the disbelief that greeted his proclamation. A break from the United States is not what the people of the Philippines want – a poll published just days before Duterte’s announcement in Beijing found that 76 percent of Filipinos have “much trust” in the United States, more than any other country in the poll, while 55 percent have “little trust” in China. Polling by Pew last year found that an astounding 92 percent of Filipinos have positive views of the United States – higher than any other citizenry in the world – and 71 percent support a greater US military presence in Asia.
The United States is the third-largest trading partner of the Philippines, after Japan and China. It is the number-two investor in the country, providing over one-fifth of foreign direct investment in 2013 while investment from China is negligible. It is also the largest source of remittances to the economy, thanks to the huge Filipino-American community, and a major provider of development assistance. Little wonder then that Duterte’s economic team issued a statement within hours contradicting his pledge of economic separation from the United States.
Within 24 hours of Duterte’s speech in Beijing, he had been publicly rebutted by Philippine senators, respected statesmen, and prominent experts. Almost immediately upon returning to Manila on Friday, he walked back his statement, but the fallout continues. In addition to spooking his own people, Duterte has other international partners deeply worried, including Japan, which said it was seeking clarification from Duterte during his visit to Tokyo last week."