Ciorciari in The Conversation: Philippine President may affect regional security concerns

September 22, 2016

“How is incendiary rhetoric like [Philippine President Rodrigo] Duterte’s likely to affect a strong defense partnership and regional security more broadly?” John Ciorciari tackles this question in his September 21 piece in The Conversation, “Is Philippine President Duterte a threat to the peace in Southeast Asia?”

Ciorciari reviews the most incendiary remarks made recently by the Philippine President, many of them aimed at senior officials in the U.S., and situates them within rising tensions in the South China Sea and the desire among Southeast Asian governments to “limit their strategic relationships with great powers like China and the United States.”

While “the line between Duterte’s bombast and real policy views is unclear,” Ciorciari warns that “the adverse consequences of Duterte’s approach may be greatest in the Philippines.” If Duterte continues to distance himself from the U.S., he may lose out on an opportunity to join other Southeast Asian nations in holding multilateral talks with China about the South China Sea.

In order for the Philippines to gain as much leverage in the South China Sea as possible, Ciorciari says, Duterte must not let “the seeds of instability” he has planted grow, allowing the U.S. and Southeast Asian partners to “treat his recent remarks as products of a bad temper and a populist political campaign” instead of a serious foreign policy crisis.

John Ciorciari is an associate professor at the Ford School and director of the school's International Policy Center.