The Philippines ' turn toward China could change

The Philippines ‘ Turn Toward China Could Change

As Filipinos head to the ballots on May 9 to elect a new leader, observers will be monitoring closely to see what the new leadership could tell for the Philippines’ growing ties with Beijing.

Foreign policy usually is not a hot-button topic in Philippines elections. Nevertheless, there are reasonable explanations why it should be this time, expressed Charmaine Misalucha-Willoughby, associate professor of international studies at De La Salle University in the Philippine capital city of Manila.

Meanwhile, pressures in the South China Sea, where the two countries have overlapping territorial claims, have endured with China’s continued forays into parts of the sea that are internationally recognized as belonging to the Philippines.

Anti-China rhetoric within Durterte’s government has increased louder. At the same time, opinion polls indicated that the Philippine public remains sceptical of Beijing. Analysts expressed that such sentiment could push the next president to move away from Duterte’s China pivot.

Based on their remarks on the campaign trail, CNBC looked at where the top Philippine presidential candidates stand on the issue of China.

Right now, the top contenders enclose Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and Leni Robredo, the sitting vice president and de facto opposition leader. The present mayor of Manila, Francisco Domagoso, is also among the leading contenders.

Marcos: China-friendly candidate 

Among the leading Philippine presidential candidates, Marcos is the most China-friendly candidate. Opinion votes currently placed him as the frontrunner in the presidential race: The latest survey by independent poller Pulse Asia found that 60% of respondents preferred Marcos.

One contentious point in the relationship between China and the Philippines is the 2016 ruling on their South China Sea dispute. The international tribunal in The Hague ignored China’s claims in the sea. It ruled that specific portions asserted by both countries belonged to the Philippines alone.

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