From one colonial master to another. From the frying pan into the fire.

>> Sunday, October 30, 2016

By Val G. Abelgas  

This in essence is what breaking up ties with longtime ally United States and making friends with China, as announced by President Duterte, means. Getting out of dependence from one colonial master and getting into dependence with another does not make an independent foreign policy.
“With that, in this venue, your honors, I announce my separation from the United States, both in military … not in social … both in military [and] economics,” Duterte arrogantly declares in a speech in China. “I have separated from them. So I will be dependent on you for all time. But do not worry. We will also help as you help us.”
In unequivocal terms, Duterte said he is breaking off virtually all ties with the US and will henceforth be dependent on China. Notice that the President also categorically used the word I, not the Philippines, which added confusion to the already vague foreign policy of his administration.
So, let’s be clear on this. Does this mean all that he said was his own personal position? But as President, isn’t he the sole source of the country’s foreign policy and that all his statements can be construed as part of the country’s foreign policy?
Based on his remarks, Duterte plans to go all the way in aligning the Philippines with China and eventually Russia, both communist and totalitarian states. Birds of the same feather flock together?
“I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world—China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way,” he said.
In very clear terms, Duterte said he is realigning himself in communist ideology and, with his usual persecution complex, declares it’s the Philippines, China and Russia against the world, as singer Helen Reddy would sing: “You and me against the world.”
By realigning with the two communist nations, is Duterte abandoning long-revered democratic ideals, respect for human rights and the rule of law?
“The declared shift in foreign policy casting aside a longtime reliable ally to hastily embrace an aggressive neighbor that vehemently rejects international law is both unwise and incomprehensible,” former Foreign Secretary Del Rosario said. “We must be with responsible nations with whom we share our core values of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. To stand otherwise, is not what Filipinos are; it is not what we do; it is not what is right.”
Even as president, has Duterte the right to drag the whole country, the entire 100 plus million Filipinos into such an ideology or into an uncertain future with an overly aggressive and ambitious China? As the leader of his people, doesn’t the democratic way demand that he first consult with the people, including those who did not elect him, before making an unbelievable 180-degree turn in foreign policy?
Even Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had to admit before a Senate committee that the President does not consult his Cabinet before making public pronouncements. Obviously, this is the reason Cabinet members and presidential spokesmen often grope for explanation whenever Duterte explodes one of his many bombshells. In the end, we all end up asking: What is it really?
Two days after saying in no uncertain terms that he was breaking up with the US economically and militarily, Duterte was saying he has no plans of severing ties with the longtime ally. What is it really?
“It is naive to think that a single person, even if he were president, can turn this foreign policy either way more than 45 degrees,” he said. “Even the President’s Cabinet hear, but don’t accept, what this Rip Van Winkle of a President declares,” Ateneo’s Segundo Romero said, comparing Duterte to the main character in an 1800s American short story who falls asleep in the woods and awakes 20 years later to find the world around him changed.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Roberto Romulo, who was the country’s chief diplomat under President Fidel Ramos in the 1990s, said Duterte should explain his move to the more than 60 percent of Filipinos who favor the US over China, and suggested that the President call a referendum before taking the country further down this path. “Past ambassadors to China warn not to trust China,” he added.
Sen. Ralph Recto said of Duterte’s Beijing remarks: “Any drastic shift in our foreign policy direction should be well-thought-out and not simply blurted out. It should be a product of deep study and wide discussion. Because of its far-reaching implications, it cannot be an announce-now, study-later thing. Crafting an independent foreign policy requires introspection, not impetuousness. This is all the more true if the object of the President’s pique is not a backwater failed state, but a nation that is home to the largest number of Filipinos abroad, the biggest source of foreign exchange remittances, one of the biggest ODA donors, a major market of our products and services, like the BPO.”
While we give credit to Duterte for being the first Filipino president to stand up to mighty America, we must also warn that he should be careful in threading that path.
“Relating with China must not mean surrendering our claim to the West Philippine Sea. Relating with China must not also mean accepting new neoliberal dictates through entering the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is essentially a China-led free trade agreement,” said Kabataan partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago, who seems more mature than most of our current leaders.
One question that crops up immediately amid Duterte’s nationalist rhetoric is why does he have to ask the permission of China to allow Filipino fishermen to fish in the rich fishing grounds of Panatag or Scarborough Shoal when it is clearly within the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone and that the UN tribunal has ruled that it is Philippine territory? He stands up against the Americans and bows before the Chinese? Is that what makes for his independent foreign policy?
Acting on his personal ideological prejudices and experiences with Americans, Duterte is dragging the Filipino people down a path that is full of uncertainties. For a nation that is still burdened by nagging problems of poverty, corruption, insurgency and political stability, uncertainty is the least Filipinos need at this time.



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