China’s moves to explore for oil and undertake land reclamation projects on contested islets in the South China Sea have upset a number of its neighbors, including Vietnam. But none has taken a tougher stance against Beijing’s moves than the Philippines.
The archipelago has shaped up as the loudest voice in Southeast Asia against China’s show of strength in the Pacific. The Philippines has detained Chinese boats, arrested fishermen and lodged a formal United Nations protest against Beijing.
Manila’s boldness is underpinned by two facts: Unlike many of China’s neighbors, the Philippines has relatively little to lose if Beijing retaliates economically. And, unlike several South China Sea neighbors, the Philippines enjoys military support from the United States.