What is the geopolitical significance of the Philippines?
The second most populous country in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is caught up in the intensifying competition between the US and China. Its location means it plays an important role in regional security affairs such as the South China Sea territorial dispute, as well as the economics of changing trade routes and supply chains.
The US, the Philippines’ most important security partner, likely sees it as a springboard from which containment of China can be launched. As the fifth most mineralized country in the world, the US might also be looking to the Philippines as a source of raw materials in the event of a decoupling from China.
China’s role is likely that of a security spoiler: seeking to deprive the US of an important base of operations. It is already the Philippines’ top trading partner, accounting for 16% of its exports, and 39% of its imports. Chinese tourists contribute greatly to the Philippines’ tourism industry.
The Philippines is not likely to want to choose sides. But it may soon be asked to do so: and who it chooses will be of great importance to regional, and indeed world, geopolitics.