THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has already prepared a foreign policy strategy for presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte in light of an expected ruling by a United Nations tribunal on an arbitration case involving the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Foreign Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo on Wednesday said Philippine embassies and public stakeholders contributed their inputs to the policy strategy that primarily aims to promote the country’s interests in the coming years.
The strategy is anchored on developing the three pillars of Philippine foreign policy: economic diplomacy, assistance to citizens and national security.
Manalo said they have retained some foreign policies adopted by the Aquino administration and beefed them up with long-term plans on sea disputes and post-arbitration scenarios, among other issues.
“In preparing our strategy, we are basing it on what has already been there and then we will probably have to build up on that depending on the issue,” he explained.
Lauro Baja, former DFA undersecretary and Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said the next administration should be prepared to face the most sensitive foreign policy challenges in managing issues in the West Philippine Sea.
He, however, noted that Duterte, as well as the other presidential candidates in the recently concluded elections, did not present concrete plans on specific issues that could be realized under the new administration.
“What I like to hear are some specific plans or proposals which could be realized within six years. As I said, issues on territorial sovereignty and maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, these are generational issues. But, in the meantime, we need to have specific projects within the time frame of the next President,” Baja said.
Ambassador Jose Romero, president of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and Philippine Ambassadors Foundation Inc., said Duterte would have to rely on his foreign policy advisers in making crucial decisions on major foreign policy crises.
“I think, although he is the President of the Philippines, he is not the only architect of foreign policies,” Romero added.
He dismissed insinuations that Duterte would jeopardize the Philippines’ ties with its allies with his bad mouth.
“I think the minute he sits in Malacañang, he will shed off his T-shirt and put on his barong or suit and behave like a tenant of the Palace,” Romero said. “I think he realizes his job.”
The barong or barong Tagalog, whether short-sleeved or long-sleeved, is formal wear for Filipino men.
Romero said he believes that Duterte’s curses and jokes during the campaign were only made to endear him to the masses in order to get their votes.
Still, he appealed to Duterte to “refrain from his trash-talking if he gets there.”
Professor Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, also on Wednesday said Duterte’s advisers will be probably busy during his administration.
“But the problem is, he is not listening to his advisers like what we saw during the campaign period when they were telling him to shut his mouth,” Casiple noted.