FURTHER escalating the Duterte administration’s increasingly anti-American rhetoric, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. claimed America has “failed” the Philippines, rejecting what he called the United States’ “carrot and stick” policy.
Yasay’s statement, titled “America has failed us,” was posted on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs as President Rodrigo Duterte said he might soon “break up” with the US over its criticism of his bloody anti-drug war and instead turn to China and Russia.
“Breaking away from the shackling dependency of the Philippines to effectively address both internal and external security threats has become imperative in putting an end to our nation’s subservience to United States’ interests,” Yasay said.
The Cabinet official said that while the US granted independence to the Philippines in 1946, the former colonial masters “held on to invisible chains that reined us in towards dependency and submission as little brown brothers not capable of true independence and freedom.”
Duterte has threatened to end joint military exercises between the Philippine and US militaries to appease China, as well as scrap a 2014 executive agreement allowing the rotational presence of American troops.
Yasay acknowledged that the Philippines has much to thank the US as a result of the two countries’ treaty alliance, but “the stark reality is that even in protecting our territorial boundaries and the exclusive use of our maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, our defensive forces remain grossly incapable in meeting the security threats that we face.”
Worse, he said, there was no assurance that the US would defend the Philippines if it took a hard line on its sovereignty rights under international law.
Yasay charged that the US “carrot and stick” policy toward the Philippines had been “effectively used all through the long years since our independence to force Filipinos into submission to American demands and interests.”
“This is what [President Duterte] is now trying to liberate us from,” he said.
Yasay said Duterte’s tirades were addressed to US leaders.
“Are they willing to change their tack in dealing with us to be in sync with geopolitical realities? Does it value our special friendship to save and strengthen it?” he asked.
Addressing concerns over Duterte’s desire for closer relations with other powers such as China, Yasay said the Philippines won’t allow Chinese bullying.
“Our past mistakes in fostering and strengthening our friendship with our white big brother will be instructive for this purpose. We will never allow China or any other nation to bully us or deal with Philippine interests under another carrot and stick policy,” he said.
Malacañang on Thursday said the Philippines is in “an open relationship” with the United States.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella reiterated that Duterte was merely emphasizing the need for an independent foreign policy.
“It does not necessarily mean breaking up alliances,” he stressed.
Speaking to Palace reporters, Jose Almonte, who was national security chief during the Ramos administration, said the Philippines should be “friends” with everybody, allies and enemies alike.
“The Philippines could remain as friends with our old allies like America, but at the same time, we can be friends with all others including enemies of America. This will be the best policy given, in fact, a situation where we are not as powerful as the rest,” he said.
On Wednesday, Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo cautioned Duterte against his rants against foreign leaders, warning that the incendiary remarks could cut the flow of foreign aid.
Duterte himself dismissed this in a talk before policemen in Butuan City on Thursday.
“I do not expect human rights [advocates], I do not expect [US President Barack Obama], I do not expect the EU to understand me. Do not understand me. And if you think it’s high time for you to withdraw assistance, go ahead. We will not beg for it,” the President said.
“How do you look at us? Mendicants? We will survive. We will survive as a nation.”
Duterte said Filipinos shouldn’t let the next generation fall to the “evil of drugs” in exchange for “crumbs.”
Professor Richard Javad Heydarian of De La Salle University’s political science department said that while Duterte’s move to distance the country from the US as part of an “independent foreign policy” was commendable, the President should avoid a rift with the Western superpower because it would create more uncertainties in the region.
“If there is a tension between the Philippines and the US, that will definitely not help the Philippines negotiate its position when it deals with China. And if anything, it will encourage China to contribute tension [and]it would become easier for China to dominate areas claimed by the Philippines,” he told The Manila Times in a telephone interview.
“Let’s not be naive about China’s intention. Their intention is to dominate the South China Sea, they believe it’s their natural true soil. So the last thing that you want is to eliminate your bargaining position or to weaken your bargaining position with your most important defender or ally,” the analyst added.