China ignores Duterte’s drug war as Philippines softens stand on South China Sea — report

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China ignores Duterte’s drug war as Philippines softens stand on South China Sea — report

MANILA, Philippines — China ignored President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs while the Philippines has scaled down its opposition against Beijing’s activities in the disputed South China Sea, a London-based think tank reported.

The Economist Intelligence Unit, sister company of The Economist newspaper, noted that foreign countries opposing the Philippines’ drug war only have limited leverage over Duterte.

While former President Benigno Aquino III took a strong position against China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, Duterte’s foreign policy has been “remarkable.”

“The Chinese government, which Mr. Duterte has embraced warmly, has been willing to ignore the war on drugs as the Philippines has scaled down its opposition to construction activity on contested islands in the South China Sea,” the EIU said.

The EIU noted that Duterte is bent on pursuing his social policies, such as the crackdown against illegal drugs, over the Philippines’ relations with Western powers, particularly the United States.

Several nations have already expressed concern over Duterte’s drug war due to the “staggering” number of deaths linked to the campaign.

A total of 18 nations — including the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, Italy and Mexico — voted in favor of a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution to investigate the Philippines’ drug war.

In response to the UNHRC resolution, Duterte directed the suspension of negotiations of all loan and grant agreements with the governments of the countries that backed the Iceland-led resolution.

The EIU noted that the Duterte administration’s response to the UNHRC resolution is “probably correct,” noting that the Philippines previously rejected $290 million worth of funding from the European Union.

“The total value of current overseas development aid at end-2018 stood at ($2.2 billion), with signatories to the Iceland resolution accounting for around ($490 million), which is equivalent to 0.2% of nominal GDP,” the report read.

The Philippine government does not need to worry at the macro level but the country’s international reputation would likely be felt through other channels, such as canceled business investments, the think tank said.

Despite criticism from the international community, Duterte still enjoys “very good” net satisfaction ratings, based on a Social Weather Stations survey in June.

“So far, his outspoken remarks and blunt rejection of overtures by states previously considered allies has not damaged his administration politically, nor has it had an obvious deleterious economic effect,” the EIU said.

Duterte’s key social policies are not expected to weaken for the rest of his term, the report noted.

“Foreign governments will continue to decry his demeanour and his direction, but unless China were to shift its position, Duterte’s path looks set,” it said.

China had also received criticism from Western countries for its actions in Xinjiang region, where over one million Uighurs and other Muslims have been reportedly held in internment camps.

The Philippines, along with 36 other countries, responded on behalf of China, commending its “remarkable achievement in the field of human rights.”

The US, meanwhile, said it would impose visa restrictions on Chinese officials until Beijing ends its “repression” of Muslim populations.