President Duterte has pragmatic as well as personal reasons for favoring China over the United States. “Duterte deeply distrusts the American commitment to the Philippines,” said Gregory Poling, the director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “He knows he can’t win this thing in the South China Sea, so to him, it’s not worth the try.”
But to the Philippine public, the South China Sea is worth fighting for. “An overwhelming majority of Filipinos support a stronger stance of the South China Sea, but it used to be an abstract commitment that had never been at the forefront of their minds, for most,” Poling said.