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President Duterte, China, the United States and the Philippines

By Angelo Lopez
October 22, 2016

Yesterday morning I read news that Philippine President Duterte wants to cut economic and military ties to the U.S. and to strengthen ties with China and Russia. This adds to the worries that I have about President Duterte. I'm not against Duterte's efforts to open up markets for Philippine business and agriculture in China and Russia. Duterte just recently finished a trip to China where $24 billion worth of trade deals were agreed to between China and the Philippines, which is a good accomplishment.

Countries like Vietnam and Japan, however, have pursued greater economic trade with China and Russia while also pursuing trade with the United States. About 43% of Overseas Filipino Worker remittances comes from the United States. Trade between the Philippines and the United States total $16.491 billion. When Duterte says that the Philippines has to cut ties to the U.S. in order to pursue greater trade with China and Russia, it's a false choice that other countries don't have to make.

Here is an excerpt of an article by Paterno Esmaquel II for Rappler:

Trade between Manila and Washington amounts to $16.491 billion favoring the Philippines, according to a fact sheet provided by the DFA in September.

The US also continues to host 5,997,330 Filipinos as Duterte vows to cut military and economic ties with Washington...

...Duterte's economic planners, however, sought to clarify the President's statement.
"We will maintain relations with the West but we desire stronger integration with our neighbors," Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said in a statement after Duterte's speech...

...Former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario earlier called on the Duterte administration to count the economic cost of the country's shift in foreign policy.

"In foreign affairs, you try to get as many friends as possible. You don't get one friend at the expense of another friend," he explained. "Playing a zero-sum game is illogical and we should get away from this."

My big fear is that Duterte is trying to cut economic ties to the U.S. because the U.S. has been one of the biggest critics of the use of extrajudicial killings in Duterte's war on drugs. If Duterte shifts the Philippines towards a closer relationship with China and Russia, it insulates Duterte from criticism over extrajudicial killings.

I notice a pattern when Duterte makes an incendiary remark. First Duterte makes a shocking remark. The people who hear the remark react with shock and confusion. Then a few days later either Duterte or someone in his administration has to give a detailed explanation to clear up the confusion or to backtrack from what Duterte initially said.

Here is an excerpt of an article by Pia Renada:

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday, October 22, he would not sever his nation's alliance with the United States, as he clarified his announcement that he planned to "separate." "It's not severance of ties. Severance is to cut diplomatic relations. I cannot do that. Why? It's for the best interests of my country that we maintain that relationship. Why? Because there are many Filipinos in the US, Americans of Filipino ancestry," Duterte told reporters in his hometown of Davao after returning from China.

The firebrand leader signaled on Thursday, October 20, during his 4-day state visit to Beijing that he announced a "separation" from the United States in both military and economic aspects in favor of China and Russia.

He explained that this "separation" merely means to “chart another way” in terms of foreign policy from the Western power.

"Separation of my foreign policy, that it need not dovetail the foreign policy of America. That's what I meant actually…Separate is just to chart another way of doing it," he said.

"What I was really saying was, separation of a foreign policy. In the past, and until I became president, we always follow what the US would give the cue. What he would give, the cue, that we are there, we are there, we follow. Pasunod-sunod tayo. 'Di ako magsunod (We always follow. I won't follow)," said Duterte.

I'm against the Philippines cutting ties to the United States. But I commend Duterte for the economic agreement between the Philippines and China that will potentially help the Philippine economy. Here is an excerpt of an article by Pia Ranada:

President Rodrigo Duterte and the large business delegation that accompanied him to China may be bringing home around $24 billion worth of deals, said Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.

...The number is an increase from the $13.5 billion in deals he had announced Thursday night during a Philippines-China trade and investment forum.

Of the $24 billion, $15 billion accounts for company-to-company deals, while $9 billion pertains to loans from credit facilities to be made available to businesses, development projects, and infrastructure, among others.

The deals involved "cut across different industries – agriculture, energy, renewable energy, tourism, food, manufacturing, telecommunications, and infrastructure," said Lopez.

The deals are expected to generate two million jobs, according to Department of Trade and Industry estimates.

I'm critical of America's history of exploitation, but I'm not anti-American. I'm both proud of my Philippine heritage and I'm proud to be American. I'm hoping Duterte's latest comment doesn't strain Philippine/American relations.

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