DESPITE having offended some countries with his controversial remarks during the campaign period, Rodrigo Duterte has started receiving well wishes from the international community as the Philippines’ presumptive President.
The brash and unflinchingly authoritarian leader caused disgust in diplomatic circles when he made nasty comments against the United States, Australia, India, Mexico and Singapore over the past months.
Nonetheless, the US said it is ready to work with the new President.
“Washington respects the choice of the Philippines’ people. We will gladly work with the leader they’ve selected,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said.
Franz Jessen, ambassador of the European Union, said he is looking forward to taking the EU-Philippine agenda forward with Duterte and his administration.
“The EU has been encouraged by the dynamic development of our relations with the Philippines over the recent years in all aspects, from political to economic, trade and development cooperation, and look forward to continue on this path with the next administration under the PCA [Partnership and Cooperation Agreement] agreed in 2012 between the Philippines and the EU,” he added.
Taiwanese media quoted Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman Ruan Jhao-syong as saying that President-elect Tsai Ing-wen will seek to work with the Philippines’ new administration to promote bilateral exchanges in areas such as investment, industry, culture, tourism and education.
The official said Taiwan’s new government “will push for a “southward policy,” aimed at deepening partnerships between Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries through exchanges at all levels.”
Ruan, however, refused to comment when asked about the new government’s stance on the arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China, saying that concerned government offices will only deal with the issue after the new government takes office.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Beijing hopes that Duterte will be able to strengthen ties with Manila.
“China hopes the Philippines’ new government can work in the same direction with China, properly handle our differences and get bilateral ties back on track with concrete actions,” he added.
Lu said he is optimistic that the Philippines and China will be able to adopt practical measures to properly handle a sea dispute between them.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua expressed willingness to personally meet with Duterte, whom he hopes will initiate the resumption of bilateral talks to find a solution that is agreeable to both sides.
“We hope to have a new chapter with the Philippines. Of course, we have differences. We hope that we can handle [them]properly and we should not let these differences be the focus of our relationship,” he told The Manila Times in an interview.
Spain also congratulated Duterte and wished him “every success in his upcoming mandate.”
“The government offers its support to the next President in this new phase that will commence in the country, as well as its commitment to continue making progress in extending the historic ties of friendship and cooperation between our two countries,” the Spanish government said in a statement.
Duterte plans to meet with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) after he is proclaimed as the country’s new leader.
His spokesman Peter Laviña said Duterte may attend a social gathering of Asean leaders in Brunei Darussalam in August.
He added that the event will be a good opportunity for the new President to meet other foreign leaders and show support for Asean integration.
Laviña said Duterte will be sending out personal representatives to key sectors including foreign embassies, Congress, judiciary, media and churches to convey his call for unity.
The committee will identify “personal representatives of the mayor so that we will be able to send them out and bring the message of the mayor extending the hand of friendship, calling for unity and cooperation as well as opening direct lines to the new administration,” he added.
Duterte is currently the mayor of Davao City in southern Mindanao.
WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE