Bravo, President Duterte!

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Ricardo Saludo

Ricardo Saludo

Before tackling the headline topic applauding President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to chart an independent foreign policy, two requisite statements:

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First, our profound and heartfelt sympathies to his family on the loss of his two unborn grandchildren among triplets carried by his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio. Receiving this tragic news amid the intense flurry of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, exacerbated the burden on the septuagenarian grandfather.

Second, this writer must clarify that this article does not defend or justify Duterte’s bloody war on narcotics, his profanity-laced speech, or his combative stance toward some foreign leaders. There are significant flaws in all three hallmarks of his administration, as expounded in past columns.

The anti-narcotics campaign demands greater safeguards against abuse, especially the vetting by police superiors of arrest targets and protocols. Loose lips by Duterte and Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. have unnecessarily ruffled relations and stirred international animosity in unhelpful ways.

However, the shift away from dependence on and subservience to America, especially in the past regime, and toward greater solidarity and cooperation with Asian nations — bravo to that.

The Duterte administration’s new tack was so clearly and dramatically conveyed by his strong statements even before the summit, and during the Asean-US meeting in response to President Barack Obama’s criticism of the many killings in the two-month-old anti-drug campaign. Plainly, the years of Manila as Washington’s voice in Asean are over.

The growing superpower face-off
The foreign policy shift comes in the nick of time. Global events are pitting America and its Western allies against Russia and China. If the Philippines is closely allied with the US, it risks being dragged into the intensifying big-power rivalry, with potentially grave dangers for national interests and the Filipino people.

That superpower test of wills is heating up fast. Moscow and Washington face off in Europe and the Middle East, with flashpoints in former Soviet republics, Syria, and the Black Sea. And in East Asia, “China and the United States are at loggerheads over several regional disputes that could lead to military confrontation or even violence between them.”

That quoted warning came from the US Army-funded think-tank RAND Corporation in its recent report, “War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable” (see “The war report President Duterte must read” < http://www.manilatimes.net/the-war-report-president-duterte-must-read/280564/ >).

Plus: Yesterday, China and Russia began eight days of naval drills in the South China Sea — the largest such exercise by their navies.

Plainly, if there is war in Asia involving America, even if we don’t have any major national interest in the conflict, the massive US forces rotating in the archipelago and the five bases made available to them under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), would be magnets for attack.

As the RAND report put it, “the Chinese regard aircraft carriers and regional air bases as prime targets.”

Charting an independent foreign policy
What should be the overarching parameters of an independent Philippine foreign policy? Three tenets to consider:

First, the primacy of national interest and security amid shifting global realities.

Second, the welfare and security of Filipinos overseas, now equivalent to one-tenth of the Philippine population.

Third, solidarity with developing nations, especially fellow Asean members, in advancing a global agenda addressing widespread poverty and growing security, health, crime and environmental threats.

This column is, of course, too short to fully flesh out all major foreign policy issues in light of President Duterte’s new thrust. But we can touch on one paramount concern: our relations with Asia’s leading powers, America, China and Japan.

From his predecessor’s policy of maintaining good ties with all three, then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd swung toward Washington and Tokyo and against Beijing. He even likened China to Nazi Germany — surely far more offensive diplomatically than even Duterte’s “colorful” remarks on the US and the UN leaders.

Duterte is wise to rebuild ties with China and avoid confrontations that could spark war. His pursuit of bilateral talks offers a peaceful way forward on territorial and maritime issues, rather than haranguing Beijing over the Permanent Court of Arbitration declaration that its “nine-dash line” claim over most of the South China Sea violates the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

But the big test of foreign policy independence is EDCA: Will Duterte implement the pact and allow the escalation of US forces in the country, with access to five Philippine bases, including airfields shared with city airports in Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Puerto Princesa?

If EDCA remains in full force, then China will necessarily treat the Philippines as a strategic threat, with potentially hostile nuclear-capable forces on our territory. Those American warships, submarines and aircraft can hit most of China with missiles able to carry atomic warheads. They also threaten vital shipping lanes in the South China Sea, through which four-fifths of Chinese oil imports pass, among other strategic cargo.

President Duterte would have to assess if having American forces in the country, with the attendant risk of Chinese animosity and attack, truly serves national interests and security. After all, Washington has made it clear in word and practice that it would not back us in our territorial disputes, unlike its express policy of defending Tokyo’s control over the Senkaku/Diaoyutai Islands also claimed by Beijing.

Moreover, the threat to vital sea lanes from American forces in the archipelago is one big reason for the People’s Liberation Army’s buildup in the South China Sea. After all, the RAND report cites as a key US war strategy “cutting off Chinese access to seaborne supplies of oil and liquefied natural gas.” No wonder the PLA feels it needs to counter the Seventh Fleet’s deployment in the Philippines.

To be sure, major changes in the US alliance should not be done without protocols negotiated with China to avoid past encroachments and conflict. But the key difference has been made by Duterte: From now on, the Philippines will deal with the world based on its national interests, not the dictates of foreign powers.

Bravo!

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22 Comments

  1. mabait na pinoy on

    Philippines is a very small countries that China can invade anytime they wish. Look what they have done on the islets, still considered as Philippine economic zone. They created artificial islands at the backdoor and the their next move is to claim Palawan as one of theirs, and they will tell the Filipino people and the government to fuck off because they are only claiming what were rightfully belonged to them and fuck the International Arbitration Court because we do not recognize that “fuckin’ court”. We are big and bad enough to do whatever we want to do. What are the Filipino people and the government going to do then?

    If a deadly disaster will hit the country again, that damages and death tolls are beyond comprehension, who are you going to call? who you will be begging to please come and help you? What country was the biggest donor or extended the most help in the last major disaster in the Philippines? It should be nice if few of these morons can answer some of the questions that were asked and say what they think, as well.

    • We just need to stand up even if we are militarily weak. Also, we can accelerate strengthening our military buying missile capable frigates, destroyers, submarines, 2 each of the mentioned sea crafts, 12 missile fast attack craft, 2 squadrons of F-18/F22 fighter jets, if they do not want to sell us those planes, we buy from European countries, if they too don’t want to sell, cut ties with them all and we align with Russia and buy everything from them.

      Btw, do you think the Chinese will just sink one or any of our vintage warship without thinking twice?

  2. Pope, Obama, gay ambassador, ….”mga p…tang ina kayo….” that’s the famous sayings of our beloved President Duterte. Good to hear and emulate, right?…..kudos and congratulations to us 16 million Filipinos. We have 6 good and nice years ahead!

    • Thank you for your comment, Olim Lonso. It may be good to reread the following excerpt from the third and fourth paragraphs from the article. Thank you:

      “Second, this writer must clarify that this article does not defend or justify Duterte’s bloody war on narcotics, his profanity-laced speech, or his combative stance toward some foreign leaders. There are significant flaws in all three hallmarks of his administration, as expounded in past columns. … Loose lips by Duterte and Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. have unnecessarily ruffled relations and stirred international animosity in unhelpful ways.”

  3. PRRD is correct in charting an independent foreign policy that protects and preserves our national interest alone. How he does that is the challenge from the backdrop of two superpowers who are silently at war already (cyber attacks, etc.. non military in nature).

    From China’s standpoint to defend from future US aggression and attacks:

    1. It must extend its defense capabilities beyond the mainland’s shores! This is crucial since most of China’s industrial complex are located in its coastline cities which is very vulnerable to ballistic missile attacks launched from America’s nuclear subs underneath the South China Sea. Hence, this explains its island and shoal grabbing activities and converting these to military use.

    2. In Hainan island, northwest of Batanes, China build the world’s largest underground nuclear submarine base. It is only logical that they have complete control of the South China seas to protect this military installation.

    The South China sea is China’s soft underbelly. The Western powers used this route hundreds of years ago to invade China. China will not let that happen again.

  4. In charting an independent foreign policy, it does not necessarily mean to completely disregard the west nor to lean to the east, a government with the sagacity at creating solutions for the benefit of our national interest, knows how to put a balance on its interest for the people of the republic and where to find political leverage to effect a successful bilateral agreement, which moves the country progressively forward.

  5. Absolutely agree with your article. Having strong connections with the US would endanger the Philippines greatly from eastern super powers. The US is keeping us as a first line of defense, protecting them from bringing the war to their mainland. Duterte is a wise man upholding the Philippines as an independent state and knowing vast knowledge of geopolotics. Protecting the Filipinos from international interests is a main priority. Hopefully more Filipinos would dwell into this and not take side on either China or the US but the Philippines alone. We are a sovereign state and we must prioritize and love each other for the next generations.

    • DUTERTE IS “ANTI-AMERICAN” FOR THE WRONG REASONS ! ! !

      I doubt if this president has capabilities for the deeper nuances of moral, political and social issues. He is just plainly PIKON at MAKITID and ISIP ! ! !. Napikon sa US and American ambassadors (australian missionary rape-murder case), kay Ban Ki Moon, Pres. Obama, CJ Sereno, Sen. DeLima and anyone for criticizing his human rights record.

      He wants to camouflage and deodorize the mass killings (3,000 to date) with issues that appeal to our sense of nationalism and unity like the American atrocities committed a hundred years ago during its pacification campaigns. Common tactic ng mga Dictators yan from Idi Amin to Polpot, include na natin si Hitler.

      It is just like saying that Merkel of Germany has no right to criticize Netanyahu of Israel for the human rights atrocities his army is inflicting upon the Palestinians since HITLER gassed millions of Jews 70 years ago. Duterte is no NATIONALIST, he is just using historical facts to cover-up 3,000 deaths so far into just 14 weeks of his presidency.

    • Duterte is not a wise man. He is a dirty mouth politician and will say anything under the sun when he is angry. I do not have any respect with this guy.

  6. Leodegardo Pruna on

    What is important to uphold in exercising an independent foreign policy is the exercise of RESPECT, SOLIDARITY, and TRUST in dealing with each other. Not anyone taking advantage of the other. God bless the Philippines.

  7. Silverio Cabellon Jr on

    The Philippines has to decide whether it leans towards China or it leans toward the United States. I know that there is freedom to chose in one of them.

    • Guys…before we make decision for our country foreign policy lets look at the advantages, disadvantages, reality and history of our partnership with the US vis a vis China. There at least 4 millions of Filipinos in the US and only 20,000 in China. US is the biggest trading partner of PH. US is the most powerful country in the world. It has many allies in the world. US has assisted PH in its arbitration case against China.
      Philippines can’t be neutral and so is the other allies. China has sent their drugs and illegal products in the PH. Chinese businessmen bribes government officials from immigration to customs.

  8. ok how about Duterte start using Pilipino in his speeches and interviews. if keeps on speaking in english that means he still has colonial mentality. lastly how about he change the name of Philippines to native name like socialist republic of Maharlika. Philippine name came from king phillip II of spain making us still slaves of spain up to the moment. lol

    • bec he’s better at english. Unless you want Cebuano? pls use your common sense first before commenting. No offense meant.

    • Crisostomo Ibarra on

      I agree with the Philippines being independent and all but with the South China Sea issues and the brewing super power face off, I kinda disagree with what you said.

      Our geographic location is so strategic in Asia that whoever controls our area will definitely have a strategic advantage logistically and militarily. With that said, in the event of a face off between the superpowers, the Philippines will be the first they want to take over. Irregardless if we decide to stay neutral. Given that our armed forces is weak, we need to be careful in this regards.

      Moreover, there are millions of Filipinos living/working in the US and has provided this country it’s much needed dollars. The government should thread carefully in regards to it’s foreign policy or statements especially the US.

      Otherwise Filipinos who’s really making a difference are the ones who will be affected.

    • With due respect, asking DU30 to speak Pilipino (Tagalog) will be difficult for him. He is bisaya. Majority of the Filipinos know how to speak Tagalog and English. Changing name of our country does not help the country economically and to be proud about. It will make the PH like Myanmar who changed its name from Burma to Myanmar. That country (Myanmar) is now poor, or even the poorest in ASEAN.
      PH has two or more countries dictating our foreign policies so lets cut the BS. Let’s not be confuse who to marry, one who is cheating or screwing its neighbors or the one who seem to be cold or lukewarm on its feeling but ready to defend you.