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Duterte's foreign policy making PH lose allies.

It has almost been over a year since President Duterte declared his 'independent foreign policy.' This policy has been variously described as 'isolationist,' 'anti-American,' and even 'pro-Chinese.' Some suggest that the anti-American slant is a result of just a petty personal grudge by the President over the rejection of a US visa application some years back. Former national security adviser Jose Almonte tried to put some sense into it. He defined it 'as not for or against anybody but equidistant to everyone.' If Almonte's definition is accepted, then we have, effectively, a policy of nonalignment.

Whatever may be the true intentions of its architect, where has this policy led us to so far? President Duterte has continually badmouthed our American and Western European allies. He rejected their aid and loan offers for 'interfering in our domestic affairs' through their calls for a stop to the drug war killings and for full observance of human rights. At this point, it is still unclear whether investments from our (former) allies have shied away from the country, but it is reported that a number already doing business here are withholding expansion plans. A

wait-and-see attitude appears to be in place. This is not good news for our economy.

Western nations profess no animosity toward us in official diplomatic communiqus. More telling than words, however, is action taken. It was reported that President Duterte was not invited to the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, last July 7-8 even as tradition holds that the position is annually invited to attend. His two predecessors as Asean chairpersons-the prime ministers of Laos and Malaysia-were invited during their terms. The Press and Information Office of the German government announced that the '[Philippines] does not belong to the invited guest countries.'

President Duterte did receive a call from US President Donald Trump shortly after the latter's induction into office and the former said that he had a good conversation with Trump, who seemingly endorsed Mr. Duterte's policies. For a while it was bruited about that a state visit to the US might be a possibility, but Mr. Duterte disavowed any plans or intentions of a US visit. This is just as well because ranking Democrat senators expressed their indignation at the possibility of the visit and vowed a boycott. The Democrats will not forget Mr. Duterte's vicious insults against former president Barack Obama.

From this viewpoint, it is becoming increasingly clear that Mr. Duterte's world - and with it, the nation's - is shrinking fast. He has become a pariah to our former closest allies.

On the other side of the ledger, friendship with China is an avowed pillar of Mr. Duterte's foreign policy. And how better to prove this than the package of loans totaling $24 billion that Mr. Duterte came home with from his state visit to China. But as the saying goes: Beware of friends bearing gifts. Indeed, it turned out that these loans are not concessional at all. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia announced that China's Official Development Assistance loans will carry a rate of 2-3 percent (where Japan's ODAs will charge less than 1 percent). China itself will benefit much from this package of loans through purchases of Chinese material and contracts with Chinese construction companies. There is nothing friendly or brotherly in these deals.

We should hold no illusions that we are now on the friendly side of China. Far from it. China wants nothing from us but the following: Disavow the Arbitral Ruling favorable to us issued by the Tribunal Court in The Hague on July 12, 2016, so that our loss of reefs and shoals now occupied by China becomes permanently lost to them. It is that simple.

Some might argue: But we have our most trusted and dependable friends in the Association of Southeast Asean Nations. The Asean, in fact, has let us down through all these years that we have had our controversies with China over the South China Sea. In summits after summits, the Asean has never taken a strong stand against

China in communiqus that would often be silent about

China's aggressive stance in the maritime squabble.

In an increasingly interdependent world, beset by climate change and continuing civil strife in the Middle East, and of late, nuclear threats by North Korea, it would be tragic if we were to find ourselves bereft of dependable allies during these trying times.

A refrain from a song sung by soldiers of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East defending Bataan comes to mind: '...No papa, no mama, no Uncle Sam... No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces... And nobody gives a damn.'
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:0PACI
Date:Sep 15, 2017
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