Newspaper article International New York Times

China and U.S. Ties Will Be Key under Philippine Leader-to-Be ; Analysts Expect Duterte to Be Pragmatic When It Comes to Foreign Policy

Newspaper article International New York Times

China and U.S. Ties Will Be Key under Philippine Leader-to-Be ; Analysts Expect Duterte to Be Pragmatic When It Comes to Foreign Policy

Article excerpt

Analysts expect Rodrigo Duterte to be pragmatic when it comes to foreign policy.

Rodrigo Duterte, poised to be the Philippines' next president, talked tough on the campaign trail about standing up to other nations. His wide-ranging comments highlighted his bravado and unpredictably.

Now the question is, will his cowboy image work to his advantage as he tries to wring the best deals he can from the United States and China?

Some political analysts expect him to tone down his language and become more presidential. But they say that his unconventional approach may help him as much as president as it did on the campaign trail.

Mr. Duterte told voters that he would settle territorial disputes with China by riding a Jet Ski to the contested Spratly Islands and planting the Philippine flag. But he is more likely to try to extract financial assistance from China for building a rail line to the southern island of Mindanao, where he has served as mayor of Davao City for nearly two decades, experts say.

"Development rather than deterrence -- that is going to be doctrine on the South China Sea," said Richard Javad Heydarian, a political science professor at De La Salle University in Manila. "The Jet Ski, planting the flag -- that is Duterte the entertainer. But now that he is president, you will see the contemplative president developing foreign policy."

With 96 percent of the votes counted from the election on Monday, Mr. Duterte led with 38.5 percent of the vote on Wednesday, far ahead of his rivals.

President Benigno S. Aquino III congratulated Mr. Duterte on his victory and pledged to cooperate in the transfer of power. He said his administration had formed a transition team to work with Mr. Duterte's staff.

"We are committed to effecting the smoothest transition possible," Mr. Aquino said.

In the contest for vice president, Maria Leonor Robredo hung on to her narrow lead over Ferdinand Marcos Jr., but it could take days to determine a winner.

In a first for the Philippines, voters elected a transgender candidate to the House of Representatives. The candidate, Geraldine Roman, 49, whose parents served in the House, was elected from Bataan with 62 percent of the vote. She said voters looked beyond gender in electing her.

Mr. Duterte, who would be the first mayor and the first person from Mindanao to win the presidency, faces formidable challenges in governing this island nation of 100 million people. Despite recent economic growth, a quarter of the population lives in poverty.

Mr. Duterte, whose achievements have been overshadowed by more than a thousand vigilante killings in Davao City during his time as mayor, promised during the campaign to lead a ruthless battle against crime. His first priority will be keeping that pledge, analysts say.

"I will become a dictator against all bad guys," he told reporters on Monday. …

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