The Duterte Initiative

Ma. Lourdes N. Tiquia

Ma. Lourdes N. Tiquia

Who would have thought that a mayor could pull out a homer in dealing with Asian behemoths like China and Japan? Lacking national exposure, he brandished his sword and laid claim to a record never before seen in presidential history in the Philippines: 6th Asian nations in 117 days in office.

Derisively called mad man by his critics, there is serious thinking in his “madness.” Visiting Laos, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brunei, China and Japan, PRRD has set the stage for a peaceful region, lights on for Asia and ASEAN and a face-to-face diplomacy that has never been seen from a David like the Philippines. There is rhyme and reason where he went and the key messages he called out in those visits. The Duterte Initiative has made the Philippines top of mind. Apart from Manny Pacquiao, foreigners meeting Filipinos have been asking about Duterte. Seriously, the “mad man” is a rockstar.

The call outs have been consistent: economic, illegal drugs, security in bilateral talks. Laos was Bud Dajo and getting the attention of the US (and Duterte got it big time). Indonesia (biggest Muslim country in ASEAN) was about illegal drugs trade, Mary Jane Veloso, AEC and comparing leadership notes (Widodo was Jakarta mayor before becoming president). Vietnam was “economic bilateral cooperation, including stronger partnership in economic, agriculture, defense and maritime cooperation, and war against illegal drugs.” Brunei was “trade and investments and developing our halal sector and micro, small and medium enterprises, support for the government’s anti-narcotics campaign” and the re-engineering of BIMP-EAGA. China is trade and security as well as exploring peace within the framework of the decision of the International Court. Japan is rebalancing in the region, among others.

There are four essential elements of a state: population, territory, government and sovereignty. The first two constitute the physical and material basis of a state and the last two, its political and spiritual basis. Of late, international recognition has been added. This is the recognition of the sovereign status of a new state by other states. Recognition has political dimensions in the community of nations. Recognition becomes the magnet that can attract investors and foreign direct investments. Recognition is also a reward for pursuing domestic policies that reform age old issues such as crime, corruption and inefficiencies in the system.

It is interesting to note that what appeared to be a faux pas on schedules of presidential foreign trips turned out to be a defining moment for the country as she grapples reframing foreign policy and rebalancing powers and influences in the region. PRRD was after all supposed to go first to Japan then to China. Critics were up in arms in the sudden change saying “a president does not mess up foreign schedules, just like that.” The sudden change can now be understood in the light of the declaration by PRRD, “Japan is and will always be a true friend.” A rare display from the bad mouth leader.

In the arrival speech by the president, he now tells the public why and what transpired said visit. This arrival speech was far different in tone and delivery. The words were carefully chosen for the important rebalancing strategy. Characterized as a “defining moment” in our ties, the president talked about common paths and shared objectives. He mentioned “maritime security and maritime domain awareness” as key priorities. Duterte explained that Japan will play an important role in maritime interests that need to be protected against “piracy, criminality at sea, terrorism and responding to disasters.” He likewise talked of shared objectives: democracy, adherence to the rule of law and peaceful settlement of disputes.”

Clearly, the Philippines is not pivoting to anyone. It is rebalancing the region in what appears to be Japan being the fulcrum. With Duterte’s deft move, Japan is now the countervailing force to China in the region. It has been 44 years since 29 September 1972 that China and Japan normalized diplomatic relations, two countries that spent much of the 20th century in mutual enmity if not at outright war. The anniversary comes at a low point in Sino-Japanese relations amid a dispute over an island chain in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and Diaoyu Islands in China. This was the other backdrop in play during the visit of PRRD to Japan. The Philippines, with its arbitral award, teaches Japan how to flex its muscles without wringing necks and that is the audacity of Digong, the trump card was never played and we got win-win in China and Japan.

From the China visit where we had the red carpet rolled out and a welcome ceremony unparalleled to none, “China has committed a total of USD 24billion to the Philippines. USD 15billion are in economic deals and USD 9billion in soft loans. To Japan who has committed to the Philippines USD 2billionin economic deals and USD 48million in soft loans.

Duterte finally made it known to all that an independent foreign policy should be “consistent with the Constitution, protective of national interests and beneficial to the people.” Clearly, Duterte has chosen to articulate in the visit to Japan what to his view is good for the country. PH-Japan relationship is “best viewed as exemplary partnership that can only gain strength in the years to come.” Notice the contrast with the US.

The Duterte Initiative will close out in the remaining days of the year with visits to Malaysia and Russia. And after these visits, one can put together clearly the Duterte Initiative. Clearly, that is purely Asia in orientation.

Interestingly, in a 1951 commencement speech at the University of the Philippines, then Senator Claro M. Recto said: “sentimentalism and emotionalism should not play a part in international relations. It is folly to expect any nation to ever sacrifice its welfare and security to pure idealism or to sentimental attachments. As Filipinos, we must look out for ourselves, because no one else will. That is the essence of our independence.”

Recto further pointed out, “but as long as we are an independent Republic, we can and should act as a free people and as Filipinos. As Filipinos we must profess and declare that the security of our nation is paramount, and as a free people we must profess and declare that, while the liberties of other peoples are important to us in this world of interdependence, our first duty is to our own.”

The Duterte Initiative has echoed this historical line: “the first objective of our government must be peace, for, as a small and weak nation, it is to our prime interest to explore with patience and sincerity every avenue of honorable and enduring settlement by negotiation and mutual concessions. If war must come, it must not be of our own making, either directly or indirectly.”

And the Duterte Initiative has rang the bells, as Recto did in 1951, “let us awake from the daydreams of adolescence, and cease to imagine ourselves as saviors of a world in distress, riding on our fanciful adventures for which we have neither heart nor strength, while we neglect the care of our own concerns. We have no manifest destiny to fulfill, no historical missions to carry out in the age of superpowers. Our aims are simple and well defined: to preserve the integrity of our national territory, to safeguard the independence and liberties of our people, and to promote their welfare by the enforcement of our rights and the fulfillment of our obligations. It is on this irreducible basis of national interest that we should build our foreign relations.”

In fine, I shall return has never been truly laden with good intentions.


Please follow our commenting guidelines.


  1. It is also what I had read into Duterte’s move, the PH having her turn to lead the ASEAN. His maneuvers are hitting several birds in one stone, just as he also did with the ‘war on drugs’.

  2. It is not just being patriotic, nationalistic, leftist, rightist or whatever the bright people among us call this policy. I am a below poverty level Filipino coco farmer, I do not have your level of education nor all your intellectual trimmings that produce your comments and display of smartness or ignorance and disdain. Like most Filipinos, I also have relatives in the US who have turned American and support the bombings of other countries, killing all. What I can see in my limited, temporary access to the Internet is that Pres. Duterte and Ms. Tyquia are trying, in great effort, to protect the people (Americans, Russians, Europeans, and most Filipinos) residing in this country from the ongoing business interests of warring countries at this time. The Phil. economy is Narconomics, Pres. Duterte understands where we are coming from. I am thankful we can survive this struggle for supremacy for a little more time, I have very young children to protect and care for. Don’t we have enough refugees and struggles to help us understand what Duterte is trying to do?

  3. Absolutely right Ms. Tiquia. Pres. Duterte is gunuinely very patriotic and it is very contagious. This is the kind of leader who will lead us to love our country more than ever. Duterte also taught us history and the contradictions of superpowers and developing countries like us. Duterte also taught us to unite as a nation and support the unity of ASEAN region as a whole. MABUHAY AND FILIPINAS TUNGO SA MAS MAUNLAD, MAPAYAPA AT MALAYANG BANSA.

  4. This is terrible English. Learn how to write before you go about criticizing America. I am a proud American, and you are a small and weak nation, and will remain that way.

    • I don’t think you get the point my friend. Just cool it on the machismo sentiment and see this article from the side of a small nation striving to better itself.

    • Damn you. America is going to the dogs. What comes around goes around. You have oppressed far too many. Your time to fall is at hand.

    • Our english may be terrible or we are a weak nation but please remember we will not stop until we prove to the world that we can STAND like you American???

    • I am an American and proud to be American. I do not allow myself to go along the confines of cynicism that most die hard Republicans like to do. Democratic America live and practice the ideals of democracy in English and hundreds of other languages that can be understood with or without punctuations of your kind of criticisms.

    • Sadly the U.S. is going down to the dogs. Look carefully what is happening within the U.S.. The world is full of criticism about the U.S. turning in on herself. She has lost her idealism. She is becoming extremely materialistic and leading the young ones in that direction. America is lost. The founding fathers of America will turn on its graves.

  5. Thank you, Ms. Tiquia! What a sharp analysis of the “Duterte Initiative”! The excellent diplomacy of our President is making us Filipinos proud. We will always pray for our country and our President. Pls keep on wirting!

  6. Very well said …especially quoting the old Senator Caeo M Recto…! Very brilliant !
    And this is exactly what our wise and super smart Presdient Duterte !
    Mabuhay ang Pilipinas !

  7. As they say, China is blowing smoke in DU30’s government’s a..e! Do we have wait till we become like Myammar, Laos and Cambodia who relied on China. Why can’t we be Vietnam? They are turning to US, Europe and against China. They fought the Chinese in Paracel island and in their boundary.
    We do not have balls to tell the Chinese to leave the Spratley islands and Scarborough. This is the bigger picture. I hope and pray that the US and it’s allies do not join forces to conspire the same way they did to FM because of his leaning towards China. Dejavu!!

    • If they want, US are bully any way,but the Filipinos I am sure they will defend their land in every square inch of it, come hell and high water to any invaders far or near…

      Chinese are our trading partners before Magellan and before your US, Mr. JRT, nothing wrong with relying on Chinese and what are neighbours for ….helping each other.

  8. Estela Malabanan on

    You’re great Ms. Malou. Why can’t others decipher PRRD and his actions as brilliantly as you do. God bless our President.

  9. It’s indeed a commendable article!!! This is the kind of message that other journalists should be emulating for the good of our country & our people. Instead of being used by the oligarchs for their own self-serving agenda our journalists should be truthful, fair, selfless & patriotic.

  10. The Japanese are said to have regarded the Emperor of Japan in the time of WWII as God. Is the present Emperor regarded the same way today? There seems to be no reason why not — even if the higher case “G” may appropriately drop to a lower case. What do you make of the reported cancellation of the Emperor’s meeting with PRRD? Could the cancellation – if true – have influenced PRRD’s communication with God while PRRD was up in the heavens — oops! — skies?

    • “In 1945, however, with Japan’s defeat in World War II, the emperors formally lost their divine status. As part of the capitulation agreement between the Allied Powers and the Japanese Empire, Emperor Hirohito (r. 1926 – 1989) had to publicly proclaim that he was not divine, and that his subjects were no longer allowed to worship him.” The status is symbolic with no political/military powers. So there are reasons why not.

    • Pablo A. Dublin on


      In your future comments, you have to have a much better prior knowledge of “subject” before posting.

      Exposing your ignorance of facts in the modern era of easy internet accesses of references is hardly

      sunction nor admire. Waste of time and it creates clutter wherein there are aplenty.

      JAYSON … on the other hand knows his facts.

      This columnist is far and above her peers in crafting her arguments in a well-organized, supporting facts

      without adding the usual bias in presenting her premise. Unlike the “hoary guys” who graces the front

      page and column of MTN with “scaring propaganda and articles of fear” with usual heavy dose of

      egotistic references of their old accomplishment; a rehash we have heard before.

      More power to you, Ms. TIQUIA. And, thank you.

    • What`s the issue Hermen, just park your yellowtard negative mental at home and enjoy leaving in your house made of glass.. we don`t need your irrelevant opinion.. self righteous shame on you…

    • Pablo A. Dublin: As I stated, it is public knowledge that Emperor Hirohito was considered God. His son has not renounced his divine heritage. It appears that his godhead might not have wanted to stoop to the level of you-know-who. The victors who dictated the terms of surrender tried hard not to antagonize the general Japanese population. How do you know that the descendant emperor and the general populace especially in the countryside do not cling to their “sovereign” as having a divine being who needs to be hidden — especially from boorish foreign visitors?

      The official answer to my why not was an answer as far as Emperor Hirohito was concerned. It is now his Son who is the Emperor of the Rising Sun. And his action of cancelling the meeting with the visiting dignitary speaks volumes. You should have done some thinking before posting your act of censorship. Who gave you the power to censor anyway? You wasted your space needlessly.

  11. An excellent piece. It may very well turn out that the Philippines is beginning to play a key role in shifting the region away from old Cold War politics to something that is far more relevant and less dangerous to the people of the region. Better to achieve peace through mutual economic development than military defense.