President vows independent foreign policy
Saying he was “not a fan” of the United States, President Rodrigo Duterte vowed Saturday to steer an independent course for the Philippines and refrain from confronting China.
Duterte made the comments after a controversial first foreign trip and spectacular falling out with US President Barack Obama.
“I am not a fan of the Americans… Filipinos should be first before everybody else,” he told reporters upon arrival in his hometown of Davao City late Saturday.
Duterte said the Philippines will be pursuing an “independent foreign policy” under his administration to safeguard the country’s interests.
In his speech after his arrival in Davao City from his trips—to Laos for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit conference and to Indonesia for a working visit—Duterte reiterated the importance of the principles of sovereign equality and non-interference in resolving issues.
“In our relations to the world, the Philippines will pursue an independent foreign policy. I repeat, the Philippines will pursue an independent foreign policy,” he said.
The President added that the people and the interests of the country will take precedence in resolving international disputes.
“We will observe and must insist on the time-honored principles of sovereignty, sovereign equality, non-interference and the commitment to peaceful settlements of disputes that will serve our people and protect the interests of our country,” he said.
The President hit the headlines here and abroad in recent days after making expletive-laden remarks that he later said were wrongly interpreted by media as being directed at Obama.
However, while Duterte expressed regret that his comments came across as a personal attack, he slammed the US for its atrocities against Filipinos at the turn of the last century, when the United States was in the process of colonizing the Philippines.
The President had drawn criticisms for insulting other leaders and institutions, such as the United Nations. He berated the UN and Secretary General Ban Ki Moon for allegedly interfering with Philippines’ affairs by expressing concerns on the spate of extrajudicial killings in connection with the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
Duterte also stressed that he does not intend to pick a fight with any nation.
“That is farthest from my mind. I only want to be at peace with everybody, doing business with everybody and no quarrels,” he said.
Duterte, accompanied by Cabinet members and other officials, arrived in Davao City from Jakarta aboard a chartered Philippine Airlines plane at 12:50 a.m.
The President told reporters that advancing the interest of the country was his objective when he attended the 28th and 29th Asean Summits and Related Summits in Jakarta.
“I engaged the leaders of Asean and its dialogue partners in important regional issues that have impact on peace, security, stability and prosperity of the region,” he said.
Duterte said he also brought up the issue of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) but “stressed our commitment to a peaceful settlement of these fields in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS,” referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“And I called on leaders to support individual and collective effort to bring security and stability in the South China Sea through the rules-based approach for resolving maritime disputes,” he said.
The President added that he also touched issues on terrorism and violent extremism and urged other leaders “to redouble our cooperative efforts in order to address this menace.”
Duterte reiterated that his administration’s campaign against illegal drugs will be “relentless and comprehensive, encompassing suppression, prosecution, and rehabilitation. All within the bounds of our laws.”
“On the illicit drugs trade, I underscored the Philippines’ grave concern over the social illness that breeds corruption at the highest levels, tears apart the fabric of our society, and debases human dignity,” he said.
Duterte said he had separate meetings, at the sidelines of the Asean summit, with the leaders of Japan, Laos, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and Vietnam, wherein he shared his vision of partnership and mutual trust and respect.
“With your help, my countrymen, and the support of the Asean member states, dialogue partners, we hope to bring the change we want and need through our engagement with the world,” he said. “The Philippines is open for business. This administration will do its part in providing the enabling environment for businesses to thrive and prosper.”
He assured Filipinos that his administration “will work very hard to make sure our economic opportunities will also be available at home.”
“Our objective is to make working abroad an option and not a need. Let us work together to achieve this goal,” he said.