The Philippines and the Complex Indo-Pacific

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Abstract

The Philippines occupies a strategic position in the Indo-Pacific region and plays a crucial role in Southeast Asian geopolitics. A comprehensive review of the country’s actions as regards the South China Sea requires the consideration of its domestic politics. During the Duterte administration, the Philippines had a significant shift in its foreign policy. Duterte wantonly pursued closer ties with China while distancing from the United States (US) upon assuming office. However, this approach later evolved, culminating in a readjustment toward the US in the final months of his term. In contrast, in the initial year of his term, Marcos Jr. expressed a desire to establish a balanced relationship with both China and the US. However, recent moves suggest the resumption of usual US–Philippines security cooperation. Despite differing foreign policy approaches, a deeper examination of the domestic and international factors is essential for comprehending the Philippines’ foreign policy trajectory. To probe the links between domestic and foreign policies, the article will use the neoclassical realist theory, putting into perspective the concept of hedging and assess the outcomes. The Duterte administration’s hedging strategy entails promoting deeper ties with China in an attempt to secure economic concessions. Conversely, Marcos Jr.’s foreign policy approach, seeks to recalibrate the Philippines’ relationships with both the US and China by accentuating security cooperation with the former.