The Long History and the Near Future: The US and the Philippines

Jacob Houston

The Philippines, an island archipelago in Southeast Asia, has always had an extremely strong relationship with the United States. This is not to say that the relationship has not been rocky at times




When the United States purchased the Philippines from Spain after the brutal Spanish-American War, and established a colonial commonwealth government to control the archipelago. Despite this, the First Philippine Republic under Emilio Aguinaldo rose to power in the late 19th century (circa 1899-1901), but was quickly suppressed by the US colonial government.


Over the course of the next century, the Philippine-US relationship strengthened due to the advent of World War II, when the Japanese Empire invaded the Philippines, leading to many tragic events such as the Bataan Death March and the Manila Massacre which constituted some of the most brutal war crimes of World War II.


The United States pushed back into the Pacific region, gaining victories in numerous battles such as the Battle of Midway all the way to the Battle of the Leyte Gulf, when the United States was able to clear a path for troops to enter and liberate the Philippines from Japanese control.


After the war, the United States granted the Philippines independence, but kept numerous military bases around the archipelago, which are still in operation to this day. In addition, the two countries signed a mutual defense treaty to ensure that if either one was attacked or instituted a military campaign in a foreign country, the other would assist (however, there have been numerous amendments to this treaty, most notably in 1991).


One of the most important aspects to the US-Philippine relationship includes the eras of Ferdinand Marcos, and Rodrigo Duterte. Both former presidents of the Philippines have held drastically different views to the United States and foreign policy as a whole. Marcos sought to strengthen relations with the US (albeit with numerous accounts of governmental corruption), and assisted the United States in the Vietnam War and increased economic, political, and social interaction with the US government. Marcos was replaced with Corazon Aquino, who was then subject to a coup d’etat attempt in 1989 by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and soldiers loyal to Marcos. The US interfered and sent the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise to assist the Philippine government against the Filipino military, and subsequently, the coup was completely defeated by the Philippine government.


When Rodrigo Duterte was elected President of the Philippines, the relationship between the US and the Philippines aggressively decreased. President Barack Obama of the US criticized Duterte over human rights abuses during Duterte’s “War on Criminality and Drugs”, leading to the Philippine shift toward increased cooperation with its neighbor, China.


However, as of now, June 2022, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has been elected the new President of the Philippines through a widespread social media campaign, and there have been fears of increased corruption in the Philippines albeit with possibilities to mend wounds between the US and the Philippines. It will be interesting to see how the Philippine-US relationship will either grow or falter in the near future, but one thing is clear: this relationship will be extremely important for the future of the Pacific Region.