President Rodrigo Duterte is introducing a significant foreign policy shift, particularly with China and the United States.
In his almost six months in office, the President has repeatedly said that he will work on an independent foreign policy for the country as he continues to blaze the trail in forging closer bilateral relations, including economic cooperation and partnership with China and Russia, and enhancing further the country's relations with his ASEAN and Asia neighbors.
Even when he was still campaigning for the presidency, Duterte has already emphasized his preference for a more "independent" foreign policy, which means less reliance on America.
And, shortly after his victory in the May polls, he declared: "I will be chartering a new course for the Philippines on its own and will not be dependent on the United States."
It is quite clear the Duterte administration's thrust is for the Philippines to rekindle and redefine its links in Asia, a region where its peoples share a historic legacy of peace, harmony and friendship.
Thus, for its part as the government's frontliner on foreign relations, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), through the leadership of Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., said an independent foreign policy is "hardly new."
"It is prescribed in our constitution (Section 2, Article II) - the fundamental law of the land on matters of state policies. Like any nation, the Philippines intends to pursue an independent foreign policy. It is a policy based on national interest, where decisions are made solely on the determination of what is in the best interest of the country and its people. It is also a policy that fosters respectful friendships and facilitates meaningful cooperation," the DFA spokesperson Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said in a message sent to PNA.
Jose further said that an independent foreign policy is "respect for each country's independence and the recognition of the principle of sovereign equality provide the underpinnings for stability and security in international relations."
He cited that the United Nations (UN) was built on these principles and the Philippines, as one of the founding members of the UN, "firmly advocated for the principle of self-determination of peoples."
"The Philippines can only benefit from a stable and secure international environment in every aspect of national existence - political, economic, social and cultural - particularly at this time when we seek to hasten economic growth and development to uplift a large part of our population from poverty. Maintaining an independent foreign policy will serve that purpose," Jose further said.
As such, the President ventured into state and official visits to neighbors in ASEAN and Asia.
In his state visit to China, he was able to secure USD4 billion in investments and soft loans, which political analysts said is no small measure for rebuilding relations with Beijing aside from similar commitments including military equipment in the country's revitalized ties with Russia.
Also, President Duterte's initial bilateral talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Peru is in harmony with Moscow's new foreign policy initiative - "Turn to the East."
As to the future of the Philippines-US relations, Jose stressed that the country continues to engage the US in productive collaboration on various areas of cooperation, from enhancing law enforcement to supporting sustainable goals.
"We have continued to affirm to the US that our alliance with them will remain strong and relevant," he said.
Jose further said that the President has enunciated in his State of the Nation Address last July that the Philippines will honor and abide by all treaty commitments and obligations.
"Both Philippine and US officials have remained positive about the future of PHL-US relations and are committed towards continuing the productive areas of cooperation," he said.
Jose also said the election of Donald Trump as US President offers an opportunity for a reset or restart in the Philippines' relations with the US.
"President Duterte said that we will rebuild our relationship with the US. The President's pronouncements regarding pursuing an independent foreign policy means re-orienting or recalibrating the focus towards the more immediate threats such as drugs, climate change, and violent extremism," he also said.
He added that the Duterte administration will continue to find new and better ways to strengthen PHL-US relations in various areas of cooperation, from enhancing defense capabilities to supporting sustainable development goals.
Source: Philippines News Agency