PH-US relations under Biden

Posted November 11, 2020

Now that Joe Biden has been declared President-Elect by the US media, speculations about the future shape of Philippine and US relations have quickly started appearing in the domestic scene.

Ben Punongbayan, Chairman and Founder of the Buklod National Movement, expressed his own anticipations based on: one, that Biden is a life-long liberal, although at the center of the spectrum,  and two, he was vice president under the administration of former President Barack Obama and participated actively in the formulation of US policies at that time.

Punongbayan believes that with Biden—being a liberal as opposed to US president Donald Trump who is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative—would be much more predisposed to asserting in a more concrete form and at a higher tone the alleged violations of human rights by the Duterte administration.

Much more so than what was expressed in a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by five Democratic senators, Edward Markey, Patrick Leahy, Richard Durbin, Benjamin Cardin and  Jeffrey Merkley, in late July this year. These senators asked Pompeo how the US intends to respond to their allegations about the killings in the drug war, conviction of Rappler’s Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos, Jr., shutdown of ABS-CBN and continued incarceration of Sen. Leila de Lima. Apparently, Pompeo did not do anything substantial about the letter. But things may turn out differently under the Biden administration.

Another important Philippine concern is the West Philippine Sea (WPS). It was during the Obama administration when China took control of the Scarborough Shoal and the US just stood by watching. It was also during the Obama administration when China made constructions in certain strategic places in the WPS. And the US did not do anything much about them. As such, it is not reasonable to expect that  Biden, who was an active participant in policy making in the Obama administration, will do anything to alter those existing positions in favor of the Philippines. We will be on our own with respect to WPS under the Biden administration.

On the other hand, Biden may want to improve his country’s morale standing in global politics and as such may want to take a more active part in the implementation of the United Nations arbitral award to the Philippines on the WPS issue.

Furthermore, Biden may want to play a more constructive role in the world trade, world health, world food and climate change issues so that there will be relatively fewer international stresses for the benefit of everybody.

The last major concern of the Philippines is outsourcing work coming from US geographical areas. Biden may not be as aggressive as Trump in trying to reshore back to the US American jobs that have been offshored to other countries. So, Punongbayan anticipates that the Philippines would be relieved of that trade tension during the Biden administration.

In sum, Punongbayan believes that there won’t be much change in Philippine and US relations, except for the Philippines to expect greater assertiveness by the Biden administration in the area of human rights as well as in global governance.

“The shape of the relationship during the Biden administration will depend upon how the Philippines respond to that expected assertiveness.”

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