Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
March 2024 Monthly Political Analysis
11 April 2024

Congress rifts over economic charter change (Cha-cha)


In March, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said both Houses of Congress were on the same page in deliberating several amendments to the 1987 Constitution. Qualifying, he said the Senate and the House of Representatives have "arrived at a consensus" to reviewing only the economic provisions.

Signs, however, show Congress is besieged by intramurals on the economic charter change (Cha-cha). Marcos allies challenged Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri to fulfill his promise to the president that he can muster the 18 votes needed for economic reforms in the 1987 Constitution. Deputy Speaker David Suarez said, “It is now incumbent on the Senate President to show his leadership to muster enough votes so that we can get the Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 approved in the Senate.

But Bataan 1st District Rep. Geraldine Roman said four allies of the chief executive have expressed doubts over Charter amendments, raising eyebrows on whether they really are with the president on constitutional change.

In February, senators welcomed the filing of Resolution of Both Houses No. 7 (RBH 7) in the House of Representatives, saying the move will fast-track proceedings on the proposed amendments to the three economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution. A House representative noted that RBH 7 is similar to the Senate’s RBH 6, which would address restrictions on foreign ownership of public utilities, educational institutions, and advertising industries.

Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 6 of the House of Representatives (HoR) seeks to amend the Constitution by adding the qualifying phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to Articles 12, Section 11, Article 14, Section 4 (2) and Article 16, Section 11 (2). These pertinent Articles and Sections require the operation of public utilities by at least 60% of Filipinos; the ownership of educational institutions by at least 60% of Filipinos, and those of the advertising industry by at least 70% of Filipinos, respectively. In short, the proposed amendments seek to do away with the current limitations on the participation of foreign capital in these three sectors, allowing for 100% foreign ownership.

The lower House’s RBH No. 6 also provides for a ¾ voting procedure on the proposed amendments without specifying if the voting is done separately by the House and the Senate. This is an unresolved constitutional ambiguity in the current constitution because the ¾ voting procedure was originally meant for a unicameral body but the final constitution approved was that of a bicameral body. If the voting were done by both houses convening and voting as one body, the Senate’s voting strength of only 24 senators would be easily swamped by the close to 300 members of the House of Representatives.

On the other hand, RBH 7 on economic Cha-cha was passed on final reading in the
House of Representatives seeking to amend the 1987 Constitution and allowing foreign ownership in vital industries. House Speaker Martin Romualdez said the proposed removal of constitutional limitations on the foreign ownership in certain sectors was the “last piece in the puzzle of investment measures” of the Marcos administration. RBH 7 abolishes the 40% foreign ownership limit for public utilities, education and advertising firms.

Critics such as the independent economic think tank IBON Foundation denounced RBH 7 as not about economic Cha-cha but political self-interest. IBON: “The railroading and passage of the Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 7 shows that the House had already decided on the bill as soon as it was filed. It was irrelevant that the arguments for economic Charter change (Cha-cha) did not hold water. The House was just going through the motions of deliberation and the measure is, in truth, a Trojan horse for the Marcos-Romualdez clan’s self-interest to tighten their dynastic grip on political power.

Cha-cha proponents argue that amending the Constitution and removing economic restrictions will attract more foreign investments and thus lead to more development. But IBON and other advocates have established that these foreign investment arguments are farcical.

This paper cites IBON Foundation’s arguments:

The think tank branded as erroneous the administration’s reasons for amending economic provisions in the Constitution or economic Charter change (Cha-cha). Cha-cha will only bring more of the same foreign investment liberalization that has stranded the country’s development for decades leaving millions of Filipinos struggling amid a jobs crisis, it said. In relative terms, the Philippines now has more foreign investment than China, South Korea or Taiwan did during their economic take-off in the 1970s and 1980s. This shows that large foreign investment is neither necessary nor sufficient for development. Moreover, foreign investment has not fundamentally developed the Philippines, with only fleeting short-term gains. Annual foreign investment inflows have increased significantly since the early 1980s – from an annual average of US$187 million (equivalent to 0.5% of GDP) in 1980-1984 to US$8.56 billion (2.5% of GDP) in 2015-2019 and US$10.6 billion in 2021-2022 (2.7% of GDP). Majority of total approved investments though have gone into foreign-dominated manufacturing (foreign direct investment is 52% of approved manufacturing investment in 2011-2022) rather than domestic agriculture and Filipino industries.

Despite allowing 100% foreign ownership, the manufacturing sector is at its smallest GDP share in 75 years at 17.6% for the first three quarters of 2023 - the lowest since the 16.3% in 1949. In truth, Philippine development does not depend on opening up the economy, the think tank added. The outdated context of accelerating globalization that Cha-cha proponents are clinging to is archaic, especially after the 2008-2009 global financial and economic crisis. Protectionism and investment regulation have been growing since then and foreign trade and investment have plateaued amid slowing global trade and growth.

Amid this global economic downturn, many countries have already reevaluated and backtracked on investment liberalization. According to the United Nations Council for Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) Investment Policy Hub, over 60 governments have terminated 405 international investment agreements (IIAs), as of March 2023. In contrast and consistent with its unchanged foreign investment fixation, the Philippines has 41 IIAs in force including three new ones signed since 2008.

Lastly, reducing so-called restrictiveness does not even guarantee foreign investment. Despite even more liberalization under the current administration, the Philippines’ net FDI of US$6.5 billion in the first ten months of 2023 was down by 18% from the same period the year before. This is barely half the recent peak of US$12 billion in 2021.

IBON said that ultimately, the foreign investment the government hopes to attract with economic Cha-cha will only benefit local oligarchs and foreign corporations. The group stressed that FDI contributes to domestic development only when strictly regulated and best in the context of national industrialization policy – as done historically and currently by the world’s biggest industrial powers.

“Red line” to 88% of Filipinos

But legislative moves to change the charter are a “red line” as far as majority of Filipinos are concerned – as they have been in at least two previous attempts. A March 2024 survey by the Pulse Asia (PA) says tampering with the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution is opposed by 88% of Filipinos. The survey results came just a week after the House passed RBH No. 7 – the proposal outlining changes to economic provisions in the Constitution – after weeks of marathon hearings

PA said on March 27 support for amending the 1987 Constitution has dropped significantly over the past year- from 41% of Filipino adults supporting charter change efforts in March 2023, there are now only 8% in favor of the move. The pollster said 88% of Filipinos are not in favor of amending the Constitution, a 43-percentage point increase from the 45% who opposed the move last year. A big majority or 74% of Filipinos said it “should not be amended now or any other time,” a significant increase from 31% in March 2023.

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice and 1987 Constitution framer Hilario Davide Jr. opposes charter change saying there are no “valid, serious, and compelling reasons” to amend the charter.

Given the PA survey results it would be a political suicide for Congress to push the constitutional change as it would trigger a constitutional crisis and, as in previous attempts, will unleash crippling street protests. Previous moves have even marshalled calls for the abolition of Congress if not the removal of the incumbent president.

With the anticipated people’s resistance to Cha-cha it may be a foregone conclusion that the legislative move is doomed to fail. The next president may do another try. Meantime, legislators who are active in pushing for the economic cha-cha today and are running for reelection in next year’s May 2025 mid-term elections will face an acid test whether they will be voted back in office.

Trust ratings fall

In relation to Pulse Asia’s March 2024 survey results Publicus Asia’s Pahayag 2024 first quarter survey notes that after only two years in office, high inflation, corruption, and perceived weak leadership have led to the plummeting of public approval and trust ratings of President Marcos, Jr. and his vice president, Inday Sarah Duterte and other public officials. Marcos’s and Duterte’s approval ratings plunged to their lowest levels since the third quarter of 2022 — from 58% for the fourth quarter of 2023 to 44% for the first quarter of 2024 for the President and from 59% to 53% for the vice president. The lower numbers were due to the public’s growing concerns regarding issues such as inflation, corruption and perceived weak leadership, Publicus Asia noted. (See


1.4M jobs loss
Recent labor force data showing a drop in employed persons, combined with the phenomenal decrease in labor force participants and the swelling number of those not in the labor force, indicates a growing number of discouraged Filipino workers. To arrest the jobs crisis and for the economy to create gainful jobs, government should focus on the development of domestic agriculture and Filipino industries, instead of enticing the narrow profit-seeking interests of foreign investors.
Labor force figures from January 2023 to January 2024 reveal a substantial number of jobless Filipinos dropping out of the labor force due to poor work prospects. The number of employed persons fell by a huge 1.4 million to 45.9 million from 47.4 million. The labor force contracted by 1.6 million to 48.1 million, while those classified as not in the labor force increased by a whopping 3.2 million to 30.6 million. This is despite the number of working age Filipinos or population 15 years old and above growing by 1.6 million to 78.7 million.
In the same period, the reported number of unemployed decreased by 228,000 to 2.2 million from 2.4 million. This is likely due to unemployed Filipinos leaving the labor force and no longer being counted among the officially unemployed. Meanwhile, the number of underemployed decreased by 260,000 to 6.4 million.”
Unemployment has been an existential feature of the Philippine economy for several decades now. This dilemma warrants structural reforms such as agricultural modernization and basic industrialization both of which will unleash productive forces to enhance the country’s economic productivity. The traditional orientation toward attracting foreign investments, and labor export policy that began in the 1970s coupled with reliance on the overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs') remittances to boost the economy have had little impact in addressing the country’s structural problems such as poverty and inequality, largely benefitting the country’s elites and oligarchs.

Philippines among least attractive countries for foreign investors

In another front, the Philippines placed 91st out of 130 countries in terms of attractiveness to foreign investors due in part to poor business perception and financial access, according to the Milken Institute’s Global Opportunity Index (GOI) report for 2024. (See ) The economic think tank’s report measured the conduciveness of an economy to foreign direct investments based on macroeconomic fundamentals, business regulation, availability of financial services, and innovation.

The index showed that the Philippines was only slightly better than other countries in developing Asia, besting only the likes of Bangladesh, Lao PDR, and Cambodia. The Milken Institute rated the Philippines poorly on business perception, financial services, and institutional framework, saying these are the main reasons that made the country a “less attractive” option to investors.


Loss of diplomacy under Marcos

Diplomacy has either been lost or failed under the presidency of Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. allowing the military mode to gain ascendance in the bilateral relations with China. The military approach has been informed mainly by strengthening defense alliance with the United States as well as with Australia, UK, Japan, and South Korea, while opening talks with France on a defense pact. Government denials notwithstanding, the Philippines’ defense buildup sustains an antagonistic foreign policy focused on China. Such drift to a dangerous military approach has essentially restricted if not weakened the Philippines’ broader opportunities and maneuverability to resolve maritime issues with China amid the ASEAN countries’ normal, friendly, and constructive diplomatic relations with Beijing. It has also tightened Philippine security dependence on the U.S. dragging Manila to provocative and unnecessary tensions with China. One concrete example of the Philippines’ predisposition is the Marcos government’s silence on 11 concepts proposed by China in 2023 to resolve maritime issues in the South China Sea. How such hostile policy will impact on the Philippines’ trade cooperation with Beijing remains an open question.

As a result, the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) plays second fiddle to the defense department and the armed forces under Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, its main role downgraded to issuing “diplomatic protests” to denounce reported Chinese incursions on Philippine territorial and maritime claims in the SCS.

To deflect accusations that the Marcos government has chosen saber-rattling in place of diplomacy is the president’s iteration that he “is merely defending the Philippines territory” amid China’s perceived incursions in the highly-contested waters and ruling out the option of waging war on Beijing.

About the United States’ readiness to side with the Philippines in case an armed conflict in SCS arises, Marcos said such a scenario is “precisely what we want to avoid.”

“This is not poking the bear, as it were. We are trying to do quite the opposite. We are trying to keep things at a manageable level, to continue the dialogues, whatever they are, at every level,” he said. The dialogues, he elaborated, are at the sub-ministerial level, at the ministerial level and at the executive level. Marcos gave no details, however. He also reiterated that he has no plan to invoke the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the U.S. despite the growing tensions and only an “existential threat” could trigger the Philippines to invoke the MDT, noting however, that it is “dangerous” to think about seeking the U.S.’ help, if the situation in the SCS escalates.

As anticipated, this is an exercise of rhetoric as actions speak louder than words, so to speak. In just a month, Marcos dangled a number of times the 1951 Mutual Defense Pact with the U.S. when a clear existential threat arises, strengthened further military ties with the U.S. as well as with Australia, Japan, and South Korea, signed defense pacts with the UK and Canada and agreed with Tokyo to send combat troops in each other’s territory. Marcos’s defense alliance expansion has further infuriated Beijing. (The 1951 MDP binds both countries to defend each other if under attack and includes coastguard, civilian and military vessels in the South China Sea.)

The latest umbrage between the two countries occurred in March, when China reportedly – as caught on video - used water cannon to disrupt another Philippine resupply mission to the Second Thomas Shoal for soldiers posted to guard a warship intentionally grounded on a reef 25 years ago. China warned the Philippines to behave cautiously and seek dialogue, saying their relations were at a "crossroads" as confrontations between their coastguards over maritime claims worsened tensions.

Marcos to boost maritime security

Meantime, the presidential office issued an executive order aimed at strengthening maritime security and domain awareness among Filipinos. Signed on March 25 Executive Order (EO) 57 underscores the need for the country to strengthen its maritime security while also raising awareness of its maritime domain amid "serious challenges" that threaten Philippine sovereignty, especially in the disputed waterway. EO 57 orders the National Maritime Council (NMC) to formulate policies and strategies to ensure a unified, coordinated and effective governance framework for the country's maritime security and domain awareness. The NMC integrates other agencies like the secretaries of the Department of National Defense (DND), National Security Adviser (National Security Council), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Energy (DoE), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the director general of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).

In response, China said U.S. backing of the Philippines in the South China Sea has provoked confrontation and undermined regional peace and stability. It said the "U.S. is in no position to interfere and the military cooperation between the US and the Philippines must not harm China's sovereign and maritime rights and interest."

3-way summit in April with trilateral partnership to counterbalance Beijing

Meantime, U.S. President Joe Biden will hold a three-way summit with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on April 11. Described as “historic” by the government publicity agency, the summit said the recent incidents in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) would be discussed in the first trilateral summit on April 11 in Washington DC. The agency said the summit will capacitate the Marcos government in terms of more training on maritime security and capacity-building, as well as open more opportunities to explore cooperation on defense equipment.

Later this year, the Philippines is set to launch joint naval patrols in the South China Sea with Japan and the U.S. in a bid to counter China’s increasingly assertive behavior in disputed waters, a U.S. official and a foreign diplomat familiar with the planning revealed. The summit will also see the three nations deepen their security cooperation, raising it to the level of the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, which held a trilateral summit of their own at Camp David in August 2023. The growing security cooperation, of which joint maritime patrols will be perhaps the most visible aspect, is a clear obvious response to the growing tension in the South China Sea

Marcos said his visit to Washington, D.C., to meet with Biden and Kishida would be an opportunity for the Philippines to strengthen further its already "very strong foundation" with the two allies. He added that the country's ties with the United States were "something we attach very great importance to."

"The leaders will advance a trilateral partnership built on deep historical ties of friendship," including a "shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific." "With the Japan-U.S. alliance as the linchpin, we believe that deepening cooperation with like-minded countries like the Philippines in a wide range of areas will be essential to maintaining the peace and prosperity of this region," Japanese Prime Minister Kishida on the other hand said. Over the years, Japan – whose government has yet to apologize for the atrocities its imperial army committed some 80 years ago - has upgraded its “self-defense force” by directing its maritime force to navigate as far as the South China Sea where Japan has been active in joint naval and air drills. The pace of military modernization is growing with the Kishida cabinet approving $55.9 billion in defense spending for 2024, amid what Tokyo calls “the most severe and complex security environment since the end of World War II.” Japan is striving to expedite its drastic defense buildup to deal with perceived rising military threats posed by China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Russia.

Japan and the Philippines, meanwhile, agreed during a visit by Kishida in Manila November 2023 to begin negotiations for a defense pact that would allow them to deploy troops on each other's territory.

Chinese foreign ministry repudiates Marcos, Biden claims

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin has accused the Philippines of misleading the international community, denying Beijing does not claim the entire South China Sea. “China never claimed that the whole of the South China Sea belongs to China,” Wang said. “The Philippine side accuses China of claiming all waters inside the dotted line as territory. It is not in line with the fact and is deliberate distortion of China’s position,” Wang said.”

New dimension in strained Philippines-China ties

Under Marcos, Jr. the Philippines has not only engaged U.S. help against Chinese maritime and coast guard operations in the SCS but has asked for U.S. exploratory and development actions on energy resources in its waters thereby opening a new dimension of tensions between Manila and Beijing.

In March, the intractable pro-American Philippine ambassador to the U.S. and Marcos cousin Jose Manuel Romualdez claimed that the Philippines is counting on the U.S. and its allies to play a crucial role in its plans to explore energy resources in the South China Sea. A Chinese daily, Global Times, retorted that the Philippines' attempt to seek U.S. cooperation on energy exploration “is nothing but a trial to put pressure on China, which is essentially encroaching on China's maritime territory with military and economic support from the U.S.” It is as well not only a slap on the face of China but a historical revisionism to an understanding between the Philippines and China that has emerged since the 1980s on the possibility of a joint exploration and development of energy resources in the SCS, with China offering a 60/40 arrangement in favor of Manila.

China, the newspaper said, has always been committed to properly handling maritime disputes in the South China Sea with countries directly concerned, including the Philippines, through dialogue and consultation. China is also actively exploring options for practical maritime cooperation, including joint exploration. Since China put forward its initiative of "pursuing joint development while shelving disputes" – quoting China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in a Beijing meeting with President Corazon Aquino in 1988, it has made many meaningful explorations and experiments with regional countries like Vietnam and the Philippines. Thirty years later – 2018 to be precise in Beijing - Chinese President Xi Jinping and his counterpart Rodrigo Duterte signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation on Oil and Gas Development.

Further attesting to the Marcos government’s refusal to engage China in diplomacy is the fact that it has ignored China’s 11 concept proposals to resolve the sea row in 2013.

A ranking Chinese official said recently that in April 2023, they presented 11 concept papers, "but these were met with inaction by the Marcos administration." He said the Chinese government tried to formally discuss the details of the paper by sending its Vice Foreign Minister Sun Wedong in May 2023. The proposal was also raised during the 8th Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea in Shanghai on January 17. They have been waiting for almost a year for a response, he said.
As a counterpoise, the Philippines’ foreign affairs department confirmed receiving several maritime-related proposals from China, but added they could not be considered because they were against the country’s national interests. Among the proposals from China was one where it “insisted on actions that would be deemed as acquiescence or recognition of China’s control and administration over the (Second Thomas Shoal)” and that the Philippines could not consider such a proposal “without violating the constitution or international law”, the department added. It is clear, however, that China’s proposals did not warrant an official reply from the Marcos government.

Fundamentally speaking, the same top Chinese official said, to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea, China and ASEAN countries need to return to the track of dialogue and consultation based on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed in 2002. 

Accelerating negotiations on a Code of Conduct and establishing regional rules that are more effective, substantive and in line with international law will be key to regional stability and peace. This is in the interest of all regional countries, including the Philippines.

Tit for tat

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in early March urged countries from outside the region to not stir up troubles in the South China Sea, as he vows to take justified actions to defend China’s rights and respond with prompt and legitimate countermeasures.

“In the current turbulent world, peace and stability in the South China Sea has been maintained thanks to the collective efforts of China and ASEAN member states, and the most important experience we have drawn is that we must adhere to two principles: first, differences should be properly managed and resolved through dialogue, consultation, or negotiation between states directly involved. Second, peace at the sea should be upheld by China and ASEAN member states working together,” the foreign minister said.

China is preferred choice of ASEAN

China has overtaken the U.S. as the preferred choice of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to the latest report by Singapore-based think tank ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. This year, seven out of the 10 countries—Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand—polled higher in favor of China compared to last year, with the biggest changes seen in Laos and Malaysia, which jumped by 29.5% and 20.3%, respectively. At the same time, preference for China fell in the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam. China, however, remains the Philippines’ largest trading partner; China is also the second biggest foreign investor.

Many ASEAN states have generally maintained close economic ties with China—through trade and investments in development—while simultaneously hedging against its aspirations for influence and territorial expansion through defense partnerships with the U.S., the Singapore-based institute added. 

The harsh reality is that, even with still-strong security partnerships, the U.S. cannot sustain its overall influence in the region if it continues to lose ground economically. China is gaining ground in the contention with the United States in Southeast Asia. This strategically important region is home to 650 million people, and collectively is the world’s fifth-largest economy and the U.S.’s fourth-largest export market. In an area of the world that prioritizes economics, the U.S. has steadily lost ground to China, especially on trade and infrastructure.

The numbers tell part of the story. While U.S. trade with the Southeast Asian region grew by a respectable 62.4% from 2010 to 2019 (the last pre-pandemic year), China’s trade increased by an impressive 115% during the same period, according to ASEAN. Over a longer period, the U.S. share of the region’s total merchandise trade fell from 16.1% in 2000 to 11.6% in 2020, while China’s share rose from 4.3% to 19.4%. In infrastructure investment in the region China is without question playing a much more significant role than the U.S.

Some of the relative decline in the U.S. economic role in the region is explained by China’s dramatic economic growth and the resulting increased trade and investment. Over the past 10–20 years, Beijing has been much more aggressive in its economic statecraft than Washington. Beijing signed a Free Trade Agreement with ASEAN, then joined a new multilateral trade agreement—the Regional Cooperation and Economic Partnership (RCEP)—and more recently asked to join the high-standard Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) free trade accord. On infrastructure, China established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the high-profile Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to funnel billions of dollars into infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. In the past few years, Southeast Asian governments – notably the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia signing on for more than $20 billion of BRI-funded infrastructure projects in the 2015–2018 period.

The U.S., meanwhile, has underperformed in terms of its economic diplomacy. Most importantly, in 2017 it summarily withdrew from its primary economic initiative in the region, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of that accord was a severe geostrategic and economic blunder, as TPP would have bound the U.S. into the broader region for a generation or more, as well as facilitated greater U.S. trade with a number of fast-growing economies. With the U.S. out of the TPP and China joining RCEP, the prospects are for a growing percentage of ASEAN trade to be with China (and other RCEP partners) and for the U.S. and American businesses to lose further ground.

U.S. duplicity

As the escalating tensions in the SCS embroil the U.S. in what is essentially a Philippines-China geopolitical conflict, the U.S. continues to open communication with Beijing as illustrated by the April 3 phone conversation between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden upon the latter’s urgent request. In the conversation, President Xi underlined three overarching principles that should guide China-U.S. relations in 2024:

“First, peace must be valued. Second, stability must be prioritized. Third, credibility must be upheld. The two sides should honor their commitments to each other with action, and turn the (November 2023) San Francisco vision into reality.”

Geopolitical scholars believe that although the China-U.S. relationship is beginning to stabilize, the negative factors of the relationship have also been growing, and this requires attention from both sides. Specifically, before the call, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chair of the Board of Trustees Laura Rosenberger arrived in Taipei for a weeklong visit. Meanwhile, the U.S. and the Philippines are gearing up for fighter exercise over the South China Sea, while also boosting their bilateral interactions on multiple levels.

The call was made by Biden in the backdrop of the highly-partisan U.S. elections this year where the sitting president will likely face former President Donald Trump who is under investigation for multiple cases including rebellion and tax evasion. Biden is playing the double tactics of promoting stability with China to protect American trade interests while playing tough on Chinese “aggression” in the South China Sea for which he is using the Philippine president in a proxy war with Beijing – a tack that receives popular support among the U.S. electorate.

The most encompassing strategy that defines Biden’s foreign policy on China remains the same – a bipartisan policy of encirclement and containment on China. Marcos Jr. plays a pivotal role in line with the Philippines’ geostrategic location, facing China in the north and South China Sea and farther northeast, Taiwan, which the U.S. backs militarily as a leverage on China despite the One-China principle. #


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