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The Philippines withdrew from Belt and Road despite conflicts in the East Sea

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Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s attendance at the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit in Beijing marked a significant moment as it coincided with the program’s 10th anniversary.

However, despite this milestone and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s announcement of close to $100 billion in new financing for the initiative, it appears that the Philippines will not benefit from China’s largesse or shared future.

In a surprising move with important geopolitical implications, the Philippine Department of Transportation has decided to terminate a series of major infrastructure projects with China.

Instead, they are favoring rival bids from Japanese and Western companies. This decision has cast doubt on nearly all of China’s key investment initiatives in the Philippines, which is a stark contrast to the warm engagement between the two countries during the pro-Beijing Rodrigo Duterte presidency.

The relationship between the Philippines and China has reached a new low, primarily due to economic and political factors. The Duterte administration had previously engaged in what is referred to as “pledge trap” diplomacy, where China made promises of investment in exchange for concessions in the South China Sea. However, very few of these pledges were fulfilled, amounting to a disappointing outcome for the Philippines.

President Marcos Jr’s departure from the BRI stems from longstanding grievances over contested territories in the South China Sea.

Specifically, the administration expressed vocal outrage over China’s harassment of Philippine resupply and patrol missions near the Second Thomas Shoal, an area where Manila maintains troops on a grounded ship. These tensions have further strained bilateral relations between the two nations.

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