Foreign policy Duterte style

>> Sunday, October 30, 2016

Alfred P. Dizon

Among important government policies and directions, President Rodrigo Duterte has already hinted that he will abrogate the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement which the Philippines signed with the United States.
This early, some are already opposing his plan while members of the Left are lauding it. The pundits are saying since the President’s line is that of the communists, then he must be a communist. Others are saying Duterte “can go to hell” (like he told US President Barack Obama) for “selling the Philippines to China”    
The President’s unpredictable tongue and foreign policy have made officials of this Banana Republic apprehensive -- even those of other nations who have become wary of the President’s intentions like foreign businessmen in the country who were told by the country’s top executive to just leave if they can’t stand the heat and his profanity-laden statements.   
Meanwhile, former defense minister and senator, Juan Ponce Enrile said Duterte can end the military alliance but it should be studied carefully. “It can be done. But the question is, can we live without it? What will be the substitute? Because, currently, we don’t have the equipment to protect our security,” the veteran politician told Manila media.
Another former lawmaker said, the sentiments of the people should also be considered such as the opposition of the residents of Zamboanga when American troops were driven out of their city.
“No less than the Zamboanga City government objected to that because they said ‘No, we wanted them here because we feel more secure with them, present because they help in improving our fight against the Abu Sayyaf,” former Parañaque congressman Roilo Golez said.
Enrile and Golez were of the same line that Duterte should also consider the fact that as of now the Philippines doesn’t have the capability to defend our territory. They argued making friends with China is not a guarantee that it will no longer be a threat to the Philippines.
 “We must always consider China as a potential intruder in our country, not because they want to hurt us, but because they probably need our resources.  They want probably our market. They probably need something from us,” said Enrile.
They said, building closer ties with China is not bad but we should not break good relations with other countries such as the United States.
They added that, ultimately, our relationship with other countries should be dictated by our national interest.
Despite the major shift in the country’s foreign policy under Duterte, Golez, a former national security adviser, said China will remain a threat.
“It will continue to be a threat because they continue to claim about 90% of the West Philippine Sea. They’re not changing that,” Golez said.
“China is a potential adversary because of their claim on our exclusive economic zone,” he added.
Golez further said, the China remains aggressive in imposing its claims to the disputed waters and these are not friendly acts.
Hence, patrolling our exclusive economic zones is a must especially since the constitution mandates its protection. “How can you protect without patrolling? So, patrolling is very important,” Golez said.
Since China is a potential adversary, Golez said buying weapons from them is not a good decision. Golez suggested that we should follow the strategy of Vietnam who buys weapons from Russia since Russia has no territorial claim in the Philippines.
He added that we should not be offended if we are receiving lesser military aid from the United States compared with other countries like Israel and Pakistan.
“We should be thankful that we are not in a war zone because that would be the only justification for America to give us bigger military aid.”
As President Duterte moves the country away from America and builds closer ties with China, Golez suggested that we can make China a better friend, especially in terms of economy, without sacrificing the long-term friendship that we have with the US and also in due regard to the fact that there are 3.4 million Filipinos in the said country. 
Duterte sought to assure Japan on Tuesday that his high-profile visit to rival China last week was only about economics, but had more harsh words for long-time ally Washington, saying he might abrogate defense treaties.
The volatile leader’s visit to Japan comes amid jitters about his foreign policy goals after weeks of verbal attacks on longtime ally the United States and overtures towards China.
Duterte last week announced in China his “separation” from the United States, but then insisted ties were not being severed and that he was merely pursuing an independent foreign policy.
His perplexing comments posed a headache for the Japanese government who tightened ties with Washington while building closer security relations with Manila and other Southeast Asian countries as a counter-weight to a rising China.
“You know I went to China for a visit. And I would like to assure you that all there was,  was economics. We did not talk about arms. We avoided talking about alliances…,” he told an audience of Japanese businessmen.
“We did not talk about arms. We did not talk about stationing of troops. We avoided talking about alliances.”
Calling Japan a “long-standing friend and ally”, he also called for Japanese investment in infrastructure, agriculture and other sectors.
Duterte said he did not pick quarrels with his neighbors, but had tough words for Washington, threatening once again to revise or cancel Manila’s defense pacts with the United States and insisting the Philippines was not “a dog on a leash”.
“I have declared that I will pursue an independent foreign policy. I want, maybe in the next two years, my country free of the presence of foreign military troops. I want them out,” he said. “And if I have to revise or abrogate agreements, executive agreements, this shall be the last maneuver, war games between the United States and the Philippines military.”
Duterte has threatened to abrogate defense agreements with the United States several times over the past two months, but has yet to take any concrete action beyond cancelling some minor navy patrol exercises.
What’s next for our country’s top firebrand?


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