DAVAO CITY—Returning from an overseas trip where he insulted both the president of the United States and the secretary-general of the United Nations, President Rodrigo Duterte declared here Saturday that the Philippines will pursue an independent foreign policy.
“In our relations with the world, the Philippines will pursue an independent foreign policy. I repeat: the Philippines will pursue an independent foreign policy,” Duterte said in his arrival statement early Saturday.
“We will observe and must insist on the time-honored principles of sovereignty, sovereign equality, non-interference, and the commitment of a peaceful settlement of disputes. Let us serve our people and protect the interests of our country,” Duterte explained.
Duterte made the pronouncement after the 28th and 29th summits of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Vientiane, Laos and a working visit to Indonesia.
Duterte reported he had bilateral meetings with Japan, Laos, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and Vietnam at the sidelines of the Asean summit and he said he raised concerns on peace, security and stability in the region.
“I expressed the Philippines’ concern over the developments of South China Sea. I stressed our commitment to a peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, including [the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas].”
“I called leaders to support individual and collective efforts to bring security and stability in the South China Sea through a rules-based approach for resolving maritime disputes,” he said.
“My message was clear: the Philippines is open for business. My administration will do its part in providing the environment for businesses to thrive and prosper, including micro, small, and medium enterprises,” Duterte said.
But his first foreign mission also grabbed the international limelight after he called US President Barack Obama a “son of a whore” and described UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon a “fool.”
Obama later canceled scheduled bilateral talks, but the two leaders did have a chance to talk privately shortly before the summit’s gala dinner on September 7.
The following day, however, during the 11th East Asia Summit, Duterte again flashed his well-known anti-American sentiments and assailed the US for the massacre of 600 Tausug villagers during the First Battle of Bud Dajo in March 1906 at Sulu island.
At the same meeting, Duterte also praised China—with whom the Philippines has an ongoing dispute over territorial incursions in the West Philippine Sea—for being “generous” to the Philippines after it committed to help build a national drug rehab center in Nueva Ecija.
He also met and shook hands with Ban during the Asean gala dinner, but skipped the Asean-UN summit on the same day purportedly because he had to pay a courtesy call on Laotian President Bounnhang Vorachith.
Duterte shared details of his brief chat with Ban but said most of what they discussed are confidential.
“He did mention about human rights, and I responded very well and addressed myself to the body,” he said.
Duterte returned straight from Jakarta where he forged with Indonesian President Joko Widodo an agreement that will allow Indonesian law enforcers to enter Philippine waters in pursuit of pirates.
“My meeting with President Widodo was very productive and fruitful. We discussed ways of strengthening existing bilateral cooperation and identified new areas of partnership, including maritime security and in law enforcement,” Duterte said.
Duterte also raised the case of Mary Jane Veloso who was sentenced to death by an Indonesian court after she was caught with 2.5 kilograms of cocaine inside her luggage at an Indonesian airport in 2010.
The President declined to divulge details of the discussion but Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said Veloso’s execution has been postponed indefinitely.
“This is not an urgent issue as of now, let’s finish the process,” Yasay said.
“Her scheduled execution had been deferred because she would be testifying in the deposition case against her illegal recruiter. After prosecuting the illegal recruiter and if it turns out that Mary Jane [was] a victim, then we can ask for clemency soon,” Yasay added.
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