PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday congratulated Donald Trump on his election as the 45th president of the United States, with the Filipino leader looking forward to working with his fellow populist to enhance bilateral relations.
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte wishes to extend his warm congratulations to Mr. Donald Trump on his recent electoral victory as President of the United States of America,” Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement.
“The United States presidential election is a testament to the enduring traditions of its democratic system and the American way of life. The two-party system gives American voters freedom of choice based on party platforms, not just on personalities,” he added.
The Palace official said Duterte wished Trump “success” in the next four years as America’s new Chief Executive.
Trump will replace President Barack Obama, who had been the object of Duterte’s tirades in response to Washington’s criticism of the Philippine government’s anti-drug campaign.
Duterte had refused to weigh in on the US elections but said in a recent television interview that the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would make a good president, and Trump was a “good candidate.”
In October, Trump used Duterte’s decision to restrict joint exercises between the US and Philippine militaries against Obama, claiming it was evidence of the US’ diminished stature overseas brought about by weak foreign policy under Obama and Clinton who had served as secretary of State.
Trump noted that the Philippines and the US shared a long history and that the Philippines is an “important” and “strategic” location.
Andanar said Duterte “looks forward to working with the incoming administration for enhanced Philippines-US relations anchored on mutual respect, mutual benefit and shared commitment to democratic ideals and the rule of law.”
‘Chance for change’
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said Trump’s victory was an opportunity to turn the page.
“The election of Trump signals an opportunity for change that can result in a stronger RP-US relationship,” he said in a text message.
Analysts however cautioned that a Donald Trump presidency would bring more uncertainty to the already souring ties between Washington and Manila.
“Relying on his campaign pronouncements, then the Philippines will have to deal with a president who is very much into a position that sees that Philippines as a freeloader,” Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, said.
Trump has promised to get tough on companies who send jobs abroad and to strictly enforce immigration laws.
Such policies could hurt the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), two pillars in the Philippine economy.
“Trump says he wants to focus more on the US regaining its leadership, getting jobs back into the US … he wants to be more focused on the US rather than on the US reaching out to other countries,” Jose Cuisia Jr., former Philippine ambassador to Washington, said.
“If the next president is someone who does not appreciate [the US relationship with the Philippines], then of course, it’s going to be detrimental to our interest,” he added.
Richard Javad Heydarian, a political science professor at De La Salle University, said “there’s a tremendous amount of risk in having someone as volatile and mercurial as Donald Trump.”
“Donald Trump is the new isolationist, therefore he will just care about business and not intervene around the world,” he said.
Relationship will continue
US Embassy officials however stressed that Manila and Washington’s longstanding alliance would continue.
“We can’t say what will be the policy of the next administration. But what we can say with great confidence is that our relationship, over the years, over the decades has been extremely strong, extremely close. We’ve been partners, we’ve been allies and we’ve been friends…We’ve gone a lot together, we’ve worked in so many years in many areas of cooperation,” said Michael Klecheski, deputy chief of mission.
The two countries inked a Mutual Defense Treaty in 1951, a Visiting Forces Agreement in 1998 and an Enhance Defense Cooperation Agreement in 2014, allowing yearly joint military exercises that Duterte wants to restrict.
Klecheski said the new administration would like to continue the military deals, but said these should be done in a cooperative manner.
Emma Nagy, the US Embassy’s deputy press attaché, said the US would continue to take steps to keep US-Philippine relations as warm and cooperative as before.
“We will continue to honor our alliance commitments, and we expect the Philippines to do the same. We will work closely with the government of the Philippines to address any concerns they may have,” she said.
“We have full confidence in the strong ties that connect our peoples and countries, including record levels of trade, investment, and remittances. We continue to focus on our broad relationship with the Philippines, and will work together in the many areas of mutual interest to improve the livelihoods of the Philippine people and uphold our shared democratic values,” she added.