Note Submarine Matters', August 11, 2016 article, "ASEAN Ignores Duterte's Death Squads".Over the last 24 hours there has been increasing reports and commentary about the Philippines very new President Duterte, talking of buying arms from Russia and more importantly China. As Duterte's statements and changes of policy have been rapid it is difficult to gauge the depth of his feelings about China and Russia. See an article from China's perspective.
This week's closeness with China and Russia may just be a Duterte bargaining posture to gain more aid and arms from Western countries. Its too early to tell. The Philippines' long coastline facing the South China Sea makes the Philippines of increasing geo-strategic and economic importance.
If the Philippines sought defence ties with the West and China and/or Russia the Philippines could be described as "non-aligned". India, with close military ties with Russia, the US, Japan and Europe, is the most powerful country that could be described as "non-aligned".
IF THINGS GO SOUR
The Philippines has been a close ally and sometime colony of the US since the US invaded the Philippines (unseating the Spanish overlords) in 1898.
The Philippines is a fragmented group of islands loosely under Manila's (the capital's) control. Military factions, competing religions, warlords and powerful (near feudal) families jockey for position in the islands and to an extent in Manila. Filipinos have a complex like/dislike relationship with the US, which they typify as "Hollywood".
- This all makes the statements and positions of Filipino leaders unpredictable.
- This also makes the Philippines susceptible to domination from major powers. Since 1898
the dominating power has been the US (for all but 3 years (1942-45) when Japan
dominated in WWII).
Duterte and other Filipinos don't want their country to be on the frontline in a China-US confrontation.
If the US wants the Philippines to remain aligned with the West the US may decide to do something about Duterte. Duterte and the US are very aware that the Obama Administration is in "lameduck" mode, months before and after the US November 8, 2016 Presidential Elections. So it may not be until after the US Presidential Inauguration Day (Friday January 20, 2017) that President Clinton or Trump can organise a Filipino tilt back to the West. In any case as China is a rising power tilting may be more difficult than before.
The US knows Duterte's style and skeletons in his closet, but this may not prevent the US miscalculating in its handling of Duterte.
The US would have built up a complicated relationship with Duterte in the years that Duterte was the most powerful man on the Philippines' large southern island of Mindanao. As Mayor of Davao City, (Mindanao's largest city), Duterte dominated Mindanao. Mindanao is where 100s to 1000s of US Special Forces have been waging a quiet war against Islamic insurgent-separatists. Significantly Duterte, on September 12, 2016, said he wants US Special Forces out of Mindanao.
On August 7, 2016 I commented:
"China being surrounded-by-hostile-island geography is probably its main obstacle. The Philippines under an increasingly unpopular President Duterte dictatorship could offer China's best opportunity to sieze (or negotiate) territory to provide a much more effective SSBN base. That base might be Subic Bay, a US base for 90 years from about 1899-1992 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Naval_Base_Subic_Bay
...Perhaps from 2040 Subic Bay with easy access to the open ocean (where SSBN like to roam) will become a Chinese Base. By 2040 Chinese SSBNs would have caught up in quietness and won't need to be bastion protected."
Subic Bay is still important to the US Navy.