The president of the Philippines wants to liberate his country from a “shackling dependency” on the United States which can not guarantee its help when Philippine sovereignty is under threat, its foreign minister said.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, in the most forceful show of accord from a top official with President Rodrigo Duterte’s tough anti-American stance, said the president was “compelled to realign” Philippine foreign policy and not submit to U.S. demands and interests.
“Breaking away from the shackling dependency of the Philippines to effectively address both internal and external security threats has become imperative in putting an end to our nation’s subservience to United States’ interests,” Yasay said in a Facebook post.
Yasay’s assessment of U.S. ties follows a diplomatic storm over Duterte’s declarations over the past eight days that joint U.S.-Philippines military exercises would cease, a defense agreement would be reviewed and at an undisclosed time, he might “break up” with the United States.
On Monday, Duterte said U.S. President Barack Obama should “go to hell”, the latest rebuke stemming from U.S. concern about Duterte’s deadly war on drugs.
On Thursday, Duterte said the United States and European Union should withdraw their assistance to the Philippines if they were unhappy with his crackdown.
RHETORIC AT ODDS WITH REALITY
Asked about the ongoing criticism from Manila, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States was ‘mindful of the rhetoric but we believe that it is at odds with the kind of cooperation that we have right now.”
Kirby told a briefing in Washington that U.S. assistance to the Philippines in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 was $180 million “and we’re committed” to delivering that and working on areas of mutual interest.
“We remain committed … to our very real commitments from a security perspective to the Philippines,” he said. “What we’re focused on now are the assistance efforts that are in place and ensuring that they best benefit the Philippine people and are compliant with U.S. laws and regulations.”
Yasay, a former securities regulator and lawyer who practiced in the United States, said the Philippines would be forever grateful to its former colonial ruler for “many significant countless things” over their decades-old alliance, but it remained underdeveloped and weak militarily.
He said that in the South China Sea, the United States could not guarantee it would help the Philippines protect its sovereignty, as it is bound to by a 1951 treaty between them.
“Our defensive forces remain grossly incapable in meeting the security threats that we face from potential foes, not to mention their stagnating impact on our development,” Yasay said.
“Worse is that our only ally could not give us the assurance that in taking a hard line toward the enforcement of our sovereignty rights under international law, it will promptly come to our defense under our existing military treaty and agreements.”
Yasay’s tone contrasted sharply with that of Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who on Wednesday said Duterte may have been misinformed when he said U.S.-Philippine military exercises were of no benefit to his country.
The Philippines won an arbitration ruling in July by a tribunal in The Hague, which declared invalid China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea. Manila’s relations with Beijing have been strained over the case.
Since independence from the United States 70 years ago, it had never allowed the “little brown brothers” of the Philippines to become truly free, Yasay said.
The Philippines would seek to engage with China, Yasay said, and would be mindful of the lessons it had learned from being too close to Washington.
“Our past mistakes in fostering and strengthening our friendship with our white big brother will be instructive for this purpose,” he said.
(Reporting by Martin Petty; additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Editing by Robert Birsel and David Gregorio)
A former diplomat who worked in an embassy in Manila told Peace and Freedom “President Duterte sounds like Fidel Castro in 1962 for God’s sake. His verbal abuse is unnecessary and sounds silly. But so be it. Maybe it pleases the Chinese…. And “little brown brothers?” Nobody talks that way any more. Must be language aimed at Beijing and Mindanao. And there are no “shackles.” This guy is a nut job.”
Philippines’ defence minister says military can cope without US aid
Lorenzana’s remarks suggest he is following other top government officials in rallying behind maverick president Duterte’s tough anti-US agenda
US-Philippines ties are going through “bumps on the road” and the Philippine military could manage if Washington was to withdraw aid, the Philippines defence minister said on Friday.
The Philippines intended to buy arms from China and Russia and there had been no adverse reaction from within the military to president Rodrigo Duterte’s vows to scale back defence ties with the US, defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
His remarks suggested he was following other top officials in Duterte’s administration in rallying behind the maverick president’s tough anti-US agenda after weeks of scrambling to manage the fallout from his outbursts and threats to downgrade the alliance.
Lorenzana had set a conciliatory tone on Wednesday, saying Duterte might have been misinformed when he said US-Philippine military exercises were no benefit to his country.
But on Friday he said the value of US military aid to the Philippines was “not that much”, and the military could ask Congress to make up for a shortfall of about $50 million-$100 million a year in US military aid.
“We can live without [that],” Lorenzana told a foreign correspondents’ forum.
Duterte, well known for a ruthless stand against crime from his years as mayor of a southern city, won election in May on a promise to wipe out drugs and drug dealers.
About 3,600 people have been killed in his anti-drugs drive and he has been enraged by questions about human rights, from the US and others, that the bloodshed has raised.
Duterte said on Thursday that if the US and European Union objected to his drugs war and wished to withdraw aid, they should do so, and the Philippines would not beg.
The US State Department spokesman John Kirby responded by saying that the total US assistance to the Philippines in the fiscal year that began on 1 October was $180 million “and we’re committed” to delivering that.
Lorenzana said he believed Duterte’s objective was to diversify Philippines’ foreign ties and cut dependency on its former colonial ruler.
“The president is trying to develop a relationship with the US that is not too dependent on one country,” he said.
Duterte has caused a diplomatic storm by declaring that joint US-Philippines military exercises would cease, a defence agreement would be reviewed and, at an undisclosed time, he might “break up” with the US.
On Monday, Duterte said the US president, Barack Obama, should “go to hell”.
Lorenzana said there had been no official directive to scrap a two-year-old Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement. He said the uncertainty in the US-Philippines relationship was “just going through these bumps on the road”.
“Maybe we should re-assess [the relationship],” he said. “Are we benefiting, are we getting what we should be getting from alliance? It is part of this growing up.”
He said Duterte was sensitive to concerns about his drugs war and it was likely the president would dial down his rhetoric if questions from the west about human rights stopped.
Asked how changes in the security relationship could affect a strategic US “rebalance” to Asia, he said: “They are not lacking of any place to park their ships if they are no longer allowed to park their ships here.”
Lorenzana said there might be some issues of compatibility with defence procurements from Russia and China, which were willing to sell to the Philippines.
A Philippine dispute with China over sovereignty in the South China Sea would not impede defence procurements, he said, adding that there had been no discussion of the two countries working together militarily.
“All we are thinking now is buying equipment,” he said. “No talks yet about military alliance. Just simple transaction of buying equipment.”
Lorenzana’s show of accord with Duterte’s anti-US stand follows a similar tough line from the foreign affairs secretary, Perfecto Yasay, who said this week Duterte wanted to liberate the country from a “shackling dependency” on the US.
Yasay said the president was “compelled to realign” Philippine foreign policy and not submit to US demands and interests.
Filipinos Still Like Americans Despite A Lashing From The President
Ralph Jennings (Forbes Contributor)
You’d think it was about time to clear out of the Philippines if you carry one of those dark blue passports with a page named after each of your 50 states. Uncle Sam has been downgraded to something like Uncle Scam, according to what you hear from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
The rough-hewn, tough-talking president who took office June 30 resents the U.S. government for raising concern in August about what Washington calls human rights violations amid reports of extrajudicial killings to stop drug sales. The 71-year-old head of state is widely reported to have called his counterpart Barack Obama a dirty name in September. And that’s before he started asking U.S. military advisers to leave the southern island Mindanao where the Philippine government is fighting the Muslim terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. U.S. advisers have helped there since 2002 to investigate kidnapping threats and do forensic analysis, that and let’s make this yearthe last for joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises, which are held yearly in part to help Manila patrol for Chinese ships, he’s saying.
Put this way by a American expatriate in Subic Bay, just off the naval base that Americans controlled until 1992 and began reusing in 2014 to help with the maritime patrols: “I am going to keep safe inside at night for this period. Keeping your nose clean is the solution.”
But most people you talk to in the Philippines say don’t worry. The United States colonized the Southeast Asian archipelago from 1898 to 1946, so naturally wisps of resentment surface here and there. Yet not very often. U.S. troops now stay in the background, told where to go when by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and leaving no question about who’s in charge. Since a standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels in 2012 at the disputed Scarborough Shoal 198 km (123 miles) off Luzon Island, some citizens supported the reentry of American naval help. The U.S. military is ranked world No. 1, China No. 3 and the Philippines No. 51, per the database GlobalFirePower.com.
The United States has the highest trust rating among “social weather stations” on the Internet, says Jay Batongbacal, director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea at University of the Philippines. People generally support a U.S. military support role in Mindanao and a higher-profile one in resisting any external threats, Batongbacal says. “It’s really a limited few, or a limited minority that has extreme anti-U.S. sentiment,” he adds.
You also hear that Duterte is bashing the United States because of a 2002 incident in Davao, the city where he was mayor for 22 years. A bomb blast that year disabled an American who was apparently involved in a high-level crime network. U.S. secret forces got the man out of the country before the Philippines could investigate, Duterte’s story goes. He’s still peeved.
But suppose the president’s anti-American remarks signal a deeper foreign policy shift. Duterte has said he wants stronger ties with American Cold War foes China and Russia. Maybe one or the other will offer the Philippines badly needed infrastructure aid or a shot of foreign investment. Or maybe the Philippines will start approaching foreign policy like Vietnam, which seeks well-rounded relations with the world’s most powerful countries regardless of history. Even in this case, Americans are still in favor. People simply don’t trust the other superpowers. Russia is untested. China has its eyes on the sea within Manila’s claimed exclusive economic zones.
“There is a conflict between China and the Philippines,” says Kirk Nagac, 27, an unemployed man from the Philippine city Cagayan de Oro. “The only country that has helped the Philippines is the USA. I don’t know if we need China, because the U.S. is helping us here.”
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
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