GZERO Media logo

US election seen from Philippines: Will the US push China out?

US election seen from Philippines: Will the US push China out?

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter with Rappler, an online news platform in the Philippines. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Carlos Santamaria: In your opinion, why do you think this US election matters to Filipinos?

CE: It's because of the situation with China. We are so close to China physically. And at the same time, the Philippines has been a colony of the US for the longest time. The influence is still there. We're waiting to see what the US role will become after the election.


CS: One of the major campaign issues here is the "new Cold War" between the US and China. How do you think Filipinos view this US-China competition?

CE: Filipinos have more love for the US than for China, especially with the tensions between the Philippines and China in terms of the harassment and the militarization in the South China Sea. Filipinos trust the US more than China. But sadly, it hasn't translated to our government yet.

CS: How would you say the Philippines was affected by the outcome of the 2016 US election?

CE: Filipinos seem to compare President Duterte with President Trump, and we all know their similarities. In terms of Filipinos' lives, it's more about the presence of the US in the South China Sea. It's really a big issue for Filipinos because we really care about the South China Sea. And now we feel like there's not much influence from the US to try to stop China from further encroaching on those maritime waters.

CS: But the Trump administration recently reversed course and endorsed the 2016 arbitration ruling that struck down China's claims in the South China Sea. Do you think Filipinos are aware of the new official policy?

CE: Yes. But some Filipinos would really look at the actual effect, because it was just recently and for the longest time coupled with a pivot to China by our president. We feel more and more the presence of China in our own land. We have more Chinese here, we have incessant reports of abuse or harassment of fishermen. So even if the US changed its policy, for the longest time their presence has been very limited.

CS: The Philippines is consistently one of the countries that has the highest approval for Donald Trump. How would you explain that?

CE: Regardless of who the president is, Filipinos have an affinity for Americans, which is kind of sad when you look into that, how Filipinos view themselves as compared to America. Even before and then with President Trump, some Filipinos think the US is not really present in our region now, compared to before. But they cannot really associate that with President Trump himself. As for President Trump, they see him very much like President Rodrigo Duterte. They're alike, you know, he says what he wants. And just to prove a point, I think many Filipino-Americans, immigrants in the US, I talk to them and they're also voting for President Trump. It's like they really want someone who can relate to them in a sense, they feel these are real people because they say what they want. Not necessarily the right things.

CS: What do you think the stakes are for the Philippines with the upcoming US election?

CE: Security in the region and in the country depend on how the US will deal with the Philippines in trying to convince our government not to really get too close to China. I think it's too late already, but let's see if maybe Biden wins, there's a chance that he will convince the president to slow down because right now even our infrastructure, telecommunications are all being taken over, infiltrated by Chinese state companies. We need the US back for the balance of power to return to the region.

CS: If Biden wins, how do you see him convincing Duterte of anything?

CE: We had a terrible relationship with Obama. Right now, what really angers Duterte are the actions of the US senators. If there's a way for Biden to talk to the senators to stop or to slow down on Duterte and his allies... If Biden tries to do a different attack than what Obama did with blasting Duterte on human rights, because Duterte doesn't like being shamed in public, that's one thing he could do to try to improve their relations.

You have to understand that Duterte wants to save face in public. Maybe they could negotiate behind closed doors. Not slam him in public because he has this macho image that he has to protect. And that's what he really hates, being criticized in public.

CS: If Duterte were charmed by a future US administration, how would China take that?

CE: China will not easily give up because the Philippines for the longest time has been the loudest critic of their militarization in the South China Sea. But we have now kept quiet because of ties with China. I think China will not give up, we're not going to see China backing away from this. One thing that the new US administration can do is also to try to reestablish ties with the Philippine military. Our military has a US background in training. Even with the president now, it's still not easy for the military to follow China because their training is all patterned from the US. But the first thing they have to do is not attack Duterte in public — that's really one thing that will block his mind. Like, if you're attacking me in public, no. Whatever you say, no.

This interview is part of the GZERO project Global voices on the US election, which you can find in full here.

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

More Show less

On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

More Show less

In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

UNGA banner

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal

Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

UNGA Livestream