Almendras ‘charm offensive’ on
AFTER writing an open letter extolling the leadership of his predecessor Albert del Rosario, interim Foreign Secretary Rene Almendras will try to restore friendly relations with China during his brief stint as head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, but he will stand for what is right.
In his first meeting with diplomatic reporters at the DFA, Almendras stressed that the country has always been friendly to China and treated China with appropriate respect in the past.
“In my personal capacity, I tend to overextend on [friendliness]. That’s me, I’m a very friendly person. But I will stand for what’s right,” Almendras said.
“I will put down my foot on what’s right, but there’s always a nice way of saying it. There’s always a proper way of doing it,” he added.
Almendras made the remarks in a brief initial exchange with DFA reporters when he reported for work on Monday, a day after he wrote an open letter that mentioned his experience in real diplomacy under the guidance of Del Rosario.
Noting that he will only be DFA chief for a little more than 100 days, Almendras admitted he lacked experience in foreign policy, but vowed to seek the guidance of Del Rosario and other DFA experts from time to time.
He said this will be particularly important in matters concerning the West Philippine Sea where China is pressing its claim to almost the entire South China Sea to the detriment of the claims of Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
If left unchallenged, Philippines and Malaysia will lose about 80 percent of their EEZ, Vietnam about 50 percent, Brunei about 90 percent, and Indonesia about 30 percent, the new DFA head said.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Navy announced that the Philippines expects to take delivery from the United States of the third Hamilton-class cutter that was pledged by US President Barack Obama last year.
The US Coast Guard cutter Boutwell is in the same class as the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (formerly the USCGC Hamilton) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (ex-USCGC Dallar) which were decommissioned in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
The USCGC Boutwell will be decommissioned from US Coast Guard service on Wednesday in San Diego, California after 48 years of service.
“We are expecting the delivery of this ship this year. [It will be an] additional asset for the PN and will be a big boost to our capabilities once it enters our inventory,” Navy public affairs office chief Capt. Lued Lincuna said.
The US Coast Guard is working with the State Department to transfer the ship to the PN as part of a Foreign Military Sale Program through the Foreign Assistance Act.