The Philippines and Huawei: Politics or pragmatism?

Philippines to use Huawei gear for 5G networks

The Philippines says it will use Huawei equipment in upcoming trials of its 5G networks. The Philippines’ communications giant, Globe Telecom, is already a partner with Huawei, which has supplied Globe with network gear since 2010. In addition to collaboration on 5G, in 2014 Huawei supplied a private management company with high-definition security cameras for the newly-constructed financial district, Bonifacio Global City, located in Metro Manila.

A poke in the eye to the U.S.?

For the Philippines, embracing Huawei is a combination of both geopolitical pragmatism and domestic practicality. Since assuming power, President Rodrigo Duterte has tried to strike a balance between the U.S. and China. While maintaining close relations with Trump and benefitting from U.S. military support, Duterte has also sought to soften his country’s tensions with China. And of course, partnering with Huawei on the new ‘Safe Philippines’ plan to install 10,000 high-definition security cameras in Manila and Duterte’s hometown of Davao City, helps the president realize his own political goals vis-à-vis his infamous anti-crime campaign.

Navigating US-China tensions?

Duterte’s ‘please-them-both’ strategy is representative of the dilemmas countries in Southeast Asia are facing in navigating their relations with two feuding superpowers. While Duterte often operates as a maverick rather than engaging multilateral institutions, like many countries in the region he is refusing to bow to U.S. pressures to outright ban Huawei. As Canada grapples with its own Huawei dilemma, it should closely watch how the saga plays out in Southeast Asia.