PH sees improved ties under Trump

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THE assumption of President Donald Trump to power is an opportunity to improve Manila-Washington relations, Philippine officials said on Saturday.

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“We view transitions as opportunities to further relations. The US and the Philippines are treaty allies and we are ready to work on bolstering this alliance on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect,” said Patrick Chuasoto, chargé d’affaires ad interim of the Philippine embassy, in a statement.

Malacañang, which sent Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. to the Trump inaugural, on Saturday welcomed the new US leader, wishing him success in the next four years of his administration.

In a statement, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the Duterte government was looking forward to working with the Trump White House for enhanced Philippines-US relations.

“We look forward to working closely with the new administration of President Trump anchored on mutual respect, mutual benefit, and shared commitment to democratic ideals and the rule of law,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly unleashed expletive-laden anti-American tirades since taking office in mid-2016, and declared his “military and economic separation” from the US in October while in a visit to Beijing.
Duterte announced an “independent foreign policy” following criticism of his bloody anti-drug war from Washington and Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. At the same time, however, Duterte wants to bolster ties with China and Russia.

Chuasoto said the longstanding partnership between the Philippines and the US would endure.

“We believe friends help each other and utilize constructive engagement to achieve common goals of greater peace, progress and prosperity. We hope that the close ties between the Philippines and the US will continue to be strengthened in pursuit of common objectives, mutual interest and shared commitment to world peace,” he said.

Chuasoto said the huge population of Filipino migrants in the US would help strengthen ties. There are over three million Filipinos in the US, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“The Filipino diaspora has a lot to account for in the strong people-to-people ties that bind the Philippines and the US…It is in this context that Filipino-Americans continue to be an important bridge between our two countries,” the diplomat said.

W. Patrick Murphy, US deputy assistant secretary of State for Southeast Asia, said the US would continue working with the Philippines, especially with its chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) this year.

“In 2017, we look forward to working with the Philippines for many reasons but one of the most important is that the Philippines has assumed chairmanship of Asean and Asean is pivotal, it is our keystone to our engagement with the entire Asia-Pacific,” he said.

Political analyst Richard Javad Heydarian was also upbeat despite a looming tightening of US immigration and trade policies that could affect Filipino migrants and Philippine trade.

“I think the Duterte administration is so far optimistic that our relationship with the US will improve under Trump because the primary disagreement between the Philippines and America is the issue of human rights and it seems that Trump doesn’t care much about human rights, just to be very frank about it. That is not his priority,” he said.

The US and the Philippines have a strong commercial partnership.

It is one of the largest foreign investors in the Philippines, and is the Philippines’ third-largest trading partner.
The current stock of US foreign direct investment stands above $4.7 billion, and the trade between the two countries totaled more than $18 billion in 2015, according to the American embassy.

National interest

In a separate statement, Abella also welcomed Trump’s foreign policy direction, saying it “promises a more placid and mutually beneficial relationship especially with long-standing allies like us.”

“We find resonance with their intention to ‘seek friendship and goodwill and reinforce existing alliances, without imposing America’s way of life on others.’ Our diplomatic ties need to reflect our long-standing relationship but under terms and conditions that protect our people’s interests,” he said.

Abella also said the Palace respects the “America first” pronouncement ‎of Trump.

“In like manner national interest is the primary consideration that guides President Rodrigo Duterte. His pursuit of peace and order is the bedrock of economic inclusivity and self-sufficiency. Still, we recognize the indispensable need to strengthen relations with allied nations as our progress, prosperity and national well-being rely on such harmonious partnerships,” Abella said.

“The community of nations prospers as each one seeks its common good, and when it comes together to support the well-being of our common humanity,” the Palace official added.

with CATHERINE S. VALENTE

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