MANILA, Philippines – An independent foreign policy does not mean playing lackey to China, a Palace official said.
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar made this clear yesterday as he defended President Duterte’s plan to acquire military equipment from China or from Russia. The US is the Philippines’ traditional source of weapons and other military equipment.
“When you create an independent foreign policy, it’s really just saying that we are a sovereign state, we are not beholden to any country and, once and for all, we can say to ourselves that we are standing up on our own two feet. That’s just it. We are not severing ties with our allies,” Andanar said at a press briefing at Malacañang.
Duterte earlier said he was sending Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and several technical experts to China and Russia to scout for cheaper but dependable military equipment.
Andanar stressed the Philippines would definitely continue to honor its security commitment with the US like the Visiting Forces Agreement, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the 1950s-era Mutual Defense Treaty.
“Our friendship with Americans goes a long, long way. It cannot be (just severed). We have many allies including the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations),” Andanar added.
But he said “there’s nothing wrong” with acquiring weapons and defense equipment from sources other than the US “if they’re free, inexpensive or offered at lower interest.”
Asked why Duterte would consider acquiring military equipment from China when he had already criticized the quality of Chinese-made products, Andanar said, “not all China products are bad.“
“In fact, maybe most of your laptops here are being produced in China. Most of the things that we use here, maybe this microphone is also made in China,” he added.
“But there are also products which are not that good. So, it would all depend on the product. Maybe what was mentioned by the President are the products that didn’t pass the standards,” Andanar explained.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, for his part, said Philippine-China relations are at a new turning point.
“According to China vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin the two countries may be on track to dialogue, consultation and friendly cooperation. In this connection, the President has also tasked the defense and military establishment to study the options through sourcing military equipment from either China and/or Russia. But they’re not closing the options to these two alone,” Abella stressed.
He added there are no preconditions to talks with China, adding that their only purpose is to establish “warmer relationships” between the two countries.
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