BEIJING -- After President Rodrigo Duterte's announcement to "separate" from the United States, both in the military and economic concerns, members of his economic team seem to be backtracking on his statement, insinuating that it's still business as usual with the Philippines' largest trading partner.
"We will maintain relations with the West but we desire stronger integration with our neighbors. We share the culture and a better understanding with our region," Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said in a joint statement issued late Thursday night.
"The Philippines is integrating with ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea. This regional integration is similar to what has been done in the EU and NAFTA in North America and Mercosur in South America," they noted.
Before members of the business community in China, Duterte had announced that he would cut off ties with the United States, not only in the military aspect but also in economic activities.
"America, they just lost me. I realign myself in your ideological flow and maybe, I will go to Putin and there are three of us against the world -- Russia, China and the Philippines."
"I announce my separation with the United States. Both in the military and in economic also," Duterte had said.
Before making his Thursday speech, Duterte hinted before the Filipino community that he would say "goodbye" to the United States.
Pernia and Dominguez acknowledged that the President gave a very important speech.
They said, “the cabinet will move strongly and swiftly towards regional economic integration. This is why the President prioritized foreign trips to ASEAN and Asia."
"As a result, the Philippines has now opened its opportunities for trade and investment to a market of 1.8 billion people across the region. ASEAN economies have expressed interest in the integration," they added.