FORMER Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said President Rodrigo Duterte’s foreign policy seems to have gone off-track, and warned that forging a stronger alliance with China could have adverse consequences for the country.
In a speech before the Asia CEO Awards Tuesday night where he was given a lifetime achievement award, Del Rosario said isolating a long-time ally while forming alliances with other countries is not a “principled and independent” kind of foreign policy.
“With the possibility of bridges being burned, our foreign policy is as well not principled and independent when we may not know what the end game would be if our newfound friend turns out to be other than expected,” Del Rosario said.
The retired diplomat, who oversaw the previous administration’s pro-America strategy, said the Duterte administration may not fully understand the meaning of a principled and independent foreign policy.
“A principled and independent foreign policy is not about appearing to be driven by a possible bias or when it is advanced as a zero-sum game so that a close alliance, or valued partners and friends are suddenly cast aside to favor another state,” Del Rosario said.
His remarks came amid threats by Duterte to cut ties with the United States and to form alliances with China and Russia.
Del Rosario said it is difficult to comprehend with Duterte’s decision to form new alliances with China since the latter had “clearly and consistently” violated international law over the disputed West Philippine Sea “to the grave disadvantage of the Philippines and to the detriment of our national interest.”
Despite the current administration’s anti-American sentiment, the long-time ally might be the one to come to the country’s aid in times of threat or adversity, Del Rosario said.
“Our foreign policy is not principled and independent when we threaten to burn bridges with our close friends who have historically stood with us during difficult times since relations with old partners can co-exist with any new ones we may seek,” Del Rosario noted.
“For that matter, the friends we distance ourselves from today may be the very ones from whom we may need help tomorrow,” he said.
He said that the foreign policy of the Philippines will not be principled and independent if it can exist in isolation amid an increasingly interdependent world.
Del Rosario also questioned Duterte’s decision to bank on China.
“Where is the wisdom if we are appearing to place all our bets on the integrity and credibility of our northern neighbor–especially one, in particular, that vehemently rejects adhering to the rule of law?” Del Rosario said.
Del Rosario said during his term as the DFA chief, his office pursued three pillars of Philippine foreign policy--to promote national security, to enhance economic diplomacy and to protect the rights and promote the welfare of overseas Filipinos.
“These pillars were strategically advanced by a foreign policy that was principled, independent, and in accordance with the rule of law for which we had renewed the confidence and earned the respect of the international community,” he said.
He urged Duterte to continue what they have started and reaffirmed the importance of the arbitration award.
“It may be worthwhile for our government to ensure that we have conveyed our gratitude for the support received from the responsible community of so many nations for our upholding of international law in order to seek a peaceful solution on our maritime issues,” he said.
He also advised Duterte to continue to call for support from all relevant countries to abide by the arbitration rulings based on international law.
“In a multilateral setting, it is to the ultimate benefit of our entire global village to have a rules-based international order,” he said.
Del Rosario said the Philippines should pursue a foreign policy focusing on peace and stability based upon the equality of nations, the rule of law, the peaceful settlements of disputes, respect for human rights and other core principles mentioned earlier.
“The Philippines must therefore be an active participant in building a regional architecture of cooperation, friendship and amity involving all concerned states,” he said.
Since taking office, President Duterte has spoken out against the United States, the United Nations and the European Union, which had expressed concern over the high death toll in his war on drugs.
In June, Duterte told the UN to “shut up” if it “can’t even solve the Middle East carnage.”
In August, Duterte in his speech called US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg an “annoying homosexual son of a bitch.”
Duterte has also called US President Barack Obama a son of a bitch, and told him to go to hell.
Shortly after these attacks, the US said the $32-million assistance to promote human rights and security would now be subject to “rigorous vetting.”
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