Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is back at it. Two weeks ago, he appeared to cede the South China Sea to Beijing, saying China was “already in possession” of the disputed waters and that the United States should probably butt out and conduct its ongoing military drills elsewhere. This came on the heels of the Philippines joining, for the first time, multinational exercises led by China in the South China Sea. On Nov. 20, Chinese President Xi Jinping came to Manila – the first state visit to the Philippines by a Chinese leader in 13 years – bearing gifts. Xi and Duterte inked 29 agreements, including deals for more than $5 billion in Chinese funding toward a bevy of rail, road and power infrastructure projects. Perhaps most important, they signed a memorandum of understanding on joint energy exploration in the hotly contested waters just off Philippine shores.
Duterte, of course, is famous for making – and often just as quickly retracting – grand, controve