FOREIGN Affairs chief Perfecto Yasay declared Thursday that the country would break the “shackles of dependency” on the United States, which has failed the Philippines, and said the Duterte administration would no longer bend to the carrot-and-stick approach used by America or any other country, including China.
“This is at the core of the message of President Rodrigo Duterte to the American people and the world,” Yasay said in a statement. “This has compelled him to realign our foreign policy towards an independent track in pursuing the overriding national interest and in upholding and protecting our sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Although the Philippines is “forever grateful to America,” Yasay said, the country’s “shackles” of dependency on the US over the last 70 years have made Filipinos incapable of defending their national interest against internal and external threats, including the country’s ongoing territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea.
“Breaking away from the shackling dependency of the Philippines to effectively address both internal and external security threats has become imperative in putting an end to our nation’s subservience to United States’ interests,” Yasay said.
Seventy years ago, Yasay said, America acknowledged the hard fought independence of its only colony in Asia, after it snatched victory from Filipinos in their struggle for freedom from 400 years of Spanish domination.
“And yet, after proclaiming in July 4, 1946 that the Filipinos had been adequately trained for self determination and governance, the United States held on to invisible chains that reined us in towards dependency and submission as little brown brothers not capable of true independence and freedom,” Yasay said.
Weeks after he was elected as President in May, Duterte has a closed door meeting with US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg and asked him point blank if Washington would support Manila in a confrontation with China in the disputed South China Sea.
“Are you with us or are you not with us?” Duterte said in a speech in June in Davao City, recalling his meeting with Goldberg.
But Goldberg only responded: “Only if you are attacked.”
The 50-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty stated that each country will “act to meet the common dangers” if one is attacked.
Although US officials say that ties with the Philippines are “ironclad,” the Americans have not taken any side in the unresolved territorial disputes, Yasay said.
Yasay said even the presence of US troops has not helped the country protect its territorial borders.
“The stark reality is that even in protecting our territorial boundaries and the exclusive use of our maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, our defensive forces remain grossly incapable in meeting the security threats that we face from potential foes, not to mention their stagnating impact on our development,” Yasay said.
“Worse, our only ally could not give us the assurance that in taking a hardline towards the enforcement of our sovereignty rights under international law, it will promptly come to our defense under our existing military treaty and agreements,” Yasay said.
Given these conditions, Duterte then decided “to liberate” Filipinos from the US “carrot-and-stick” policy toward the Philippines, Yasay said.
“The carrot and stick policy of the US towards the Philippines has been effectively used all throughout the long years since our independence to force Filipinos into submission to American demands and interests,” he said. “This is what President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is now trying to liberate us from.”
Yasay assured the public that under an independent foreign policy, Duterte would not allow Beijing or any nation to bully the Philippines.
But the government will pursue bilateral talks with China “towards peacefully settling” the country’s territorial disputes in accordance with the legal and diplomatic process under United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“Our past mistakes in fostering and strengthening our friendship with out white big brother will be instructive for this purpose,” he added.
“We will never allow China or any other nation to bully us or deal with Philippine interests under another carrot-and-stick policy,” Yasay said.
The Foreign Affairs chief also asked American leaders and policy shapers several questions:
• Are they willing to change their tack in dealing with the Philippines to be in sync with geopolitical realities?
• Do they value the special friendship enough to save and strengthen it? Or would they instead choose to ignore the country’ urgent pleas and interject alleged human rights violations and concerns as the country moves to address pressing domestic problems?
Duterte has bristled at US and international criticism of his war on drugs, which has resulted in more than 3,000 drug-related deaths in the last three months.
Earlier, US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said Washington values its ties with Manila, noting that both countries are strong allies and partners in the region.
At the same time, he said the US would continue to speak out on “credible allegations of human rights abuses.”
Duterte on Tuesday refused to back down, despite suggestions from his allies that he be more circumspect.
To make his point, he launched into new tirades against critics of his bloody anti-illegal drugs campaign, telling Obama to “go to hell” and the European Union “to choose purgatory” because hell was already full.
“They’re telling me to stop making noises. No, I cannot stop. I’ll lose the momentum,” Duterte said during the Sulong Pilipinas Local Governance dialogues at Makati City.
The Palace on Thursday said it would be reviewing the country’s defense agreements with the United States, including the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement .
“We are reviewing all our treaties, that’s what we can say right now,” presidential spokesman
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo also said that the President is subjecting the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty to a review “either to expand them, enhance them, or remove provisions onerous to the interests of the government.”
Panelo said the underlying reason for any agreement is whether it helps the country’s interest or not. If it can be seen that it no longer adds to or supplements Philippine interests, the President is bound by the Constitution to not implement it or to abrogate it, he said.
The Philippines–United States Visiting Forces Agreement was signed by the governments of the Philippines and the United States in 1998, and came in to effect in 1999 and outlined set of guidelines for the conduct and protection of American troops visiting the Philippines.
The signing of the VFA led to the establishment of annual bilateral military exercises between the US and the Philippine known as Balikatan, as well as a variety of other cooperative defense measures.
The President, however, called for an end to the joint military exercises and also threatened to call off the Edca, which is effective for 10 years, citing that it has not been beneficial to the country.
Despite the President’s statements, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana maintained that the joint war games with the United States were good for the country.
“The President said that our troops are not benefitting from the military exercises. But military officials maintain that there are benefits [from the relationship,]” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana on Wednesday said the President may have been fed with the wrong information.
A former National Security Adviser who served under former President Fidel Ramos, meanwhile, said Duterte’s threats to abrogate Edca were “negative” for the country, and said he hoped the President would change his “colorful” insults into “colorless” ones.
The former NSA, Jose Almonte, said there was nothing wrong with forging alliances with other countries, but said it would be better if Duterte could tone down his rhetoric, saying that insults and the constant tirades were a distraction to the accomplishments of his administration.
“If he can make his colorful statements colorless, that’s a big change for me,” said Almonte. “Even the President may not realize that is not good. I am hopeful he will change when the time comes.”