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Foreign policy shift with a flick of a finger?

12:03 AM October 10, 2016

For 70 years now, or since independence in 1946, Philippine foreign policy has been consistent and predictable—pro-American, pro-western and anti-communist. In the 1960s, it adopted a pro-Asian stance as well, with the formation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Such has been the core of our foreign policy—until now.

That is, until President Duterte made it clear that he intends to adopt an “independent foreign policy.

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It appears that this change in policy is, in fact, one geared toward closer relationships with China and Russia, at the expense of our long-standing relations with the United States. With a flick of a finger, our foreign policy will make a 180-degree shift.

In the Inquirer’s Oct. 5 editorial (“Off-track foreign policy”), the question was raised: Has anyone in government studied the implications of such shift in policy? The clear answer: No. The change appears, from all indications, to be a result of President Duterte’s personal convictions and beliefs. That is evident from the way Mr. Duterte’s Cabinet secretaries rush to interpret (or reinterpret) his public statements. Foreign policy, in effect, from hereon will be made daily or weekly, depending on the whims of the president.

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Two government institutions, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are key to the formulation and implementation of foreign policy. (The AFP has gained a significant role because of our country’s ongoing territorial dispute with China.) These two institutions have been the recipient of much-needed technical help, training and expertise from the United States for decades. Consider this then: They are now—or, at least, will be, soon enough—out of the loop in foreign policy-making; not only that, they are being asked to turn against the country’s benefactors of many years— the United States; and to now favor our erstwhile adversaries—China and Russia.

If the rat is a natural prey of cats, can you turn the cat around, in a jiffy, to accept the rat as his natural friend instead? That looks like a tough act.

President Duterte can expect support from his Cabinet and legislators. But he should be wary and learn to distinguish between avid and casual support. A good number of our politicians, astute as they all are in the matter of machinations, will not want to be on the bad side of the US Embassy. They have relatives and investments in the “land of the free” and would not want to be cast off without their visas.

Interesting times ahead in Philippine foreign policy-making.

MARIANO S. JAVIER, [email protected]

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TAGS: Asean, Foreign affairs, foreign policy, letter, Letter to the Editor, opinion
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