His repudiation of the alliance with the United States, combined with a strategic rapprochement with China, has resulted in a lucrative payoff for his regime. Beijing is providing the Philippines with an aid package worth $24 billion. The implicit quid pro quo is that Manila will back away from its territorial claims in the South China Sea—a move that would remove one especially pesky challenger to Beijing's own ambitious claims.
Duterte has subsequently tried to walk back some of his dramatic moves. He now insists that his much-touted "separation" from the United States was only from U.S. foreign policy, not a severance of the entire relationship. Apparently he would still like his country to enjoy the protection of the U.S. military alliance in the event of trouble and to preserve a vital trading relationship with America. Duterte also expressed his hope that Filipino fishing crews might again be able to occupy a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, although one should be cautious about placing a large wager on Chinese receptivity to that suggestion.