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Where is our foreign policy headed?

WHEN President Duterte said before a combined audience of Filipino and Chinese businessmen and public officials that the Philippines would have a “separation,” militarily and economically, from the United States, my first reaction was, Santa Banana, does Duterte realize what he is saying?

“Separation” means cutting off of ties. Did the President mean he was cutting off all connections with the US even when we have existing military ties like the Mutual Defense Treaty, the Visiting Forces Agreement and the executive-approved agreement like the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement?

Cutting of all economic ties with the US would also mean the end of aids and grants, and endangering American investments in the Philippines, especially in business process outsourcing. It is a $250-million industry with 2.1-million workers.

My gulay, that would be a national tragedy—incomprehensible and dangerous, using the words of former Foreign secretary and former Ambassador to the US Albert del Rosario.

Duterte’s words, which I believe were made in impulse since he never consults his team before making a policy speech, sent members of his Cabinet scrambling all over the place, decoding what their boss really meant.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said that economic ties with the US will continue, and Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said this was all part of the country’s effort to have an independent foreign policy.

If Chinese officials in the background were smiling, I could not blame them. Duterte was indeed kowtowing to the Chinese. The phrase that made me laugh was “China, Russia and Philippines against the world.”

My gulay, the President was equating the Philippines with superpowers like China and Russia!

Even Japan—where Duterte will go this week—wants clarification.

When the President promised to metamorphose from a local mayor to the president of 101- million Filipinos, I had misgivings. A zebra cannot change its stripes. Still, I tried to be hopeful that he would change for the country’s sake. For all his warts, President Duterte is now our president, and we are all in the same boat.

No matter what his apologists say, Duterte’s nationalism is simply passe. We now live in a global community.

Former President Fidel Ramos said the Duterte boat is leaking. Unless the administration can plug the leaks, this boat will truly sink.

I have never seen a president as talkative as Duterte. He is the only one I know who articulates policies based on impulse. His visit to China may have earned the country $24 billion worth of agreements with the promised investments of $15 billion and $9 billion worth of credit facilities—which, by the way, we still have to pay.

In the geopolitical sense, Duterte’s rants against the US presume that the United States needs the Philippines more than the Philippine needs the United States. This is wrong.

This is why we need circumspection when we speak about our foreign policy.

* * *

President Duterte is reported to have appointed a new Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority administrator in the person of Randy Escolango, former SBMA Deputy Administrator for legal affairs, replacing Roberto Garcia, who served both as chairman and administrator. The chairmanship went to Martin Diño, who ran for president, but got substituted by Duterte.

A close reading of the SBMA charter, however, provides that both the chairmanship and administration should be held by one person. This was in the case of Richard Gordon, the first SBMA chairman/administrator, and for Tong Payumo who succeeded Gordon.

The trouble with having a chairman and a different administrator is the possibility of a turf war. There was even a time at the SBMA when the chairman and the administrator both wanted to occupy the admiral’s residence at the Freeport. Both sides appeared ready to shoot each other. This did not happen when Roberto Garcia became both the chairman and administrator, whose leadership has turned the Freeport in tip-top shape both in revenues and record employees.

* * *

Here’s good news for senior citizens, especially the hearing impaired.

The Movie and Television Ratings and Classification Board may soon implement the need for subtitles for all television programs—news, movies and sitcoms. This is the result of the findings of the Senate committee on public information chaired by Senator Grace Poe upon the complaints of many senior citizens, who have hearing deficiency and other physical disabilities.

Topics: Emil Jurado , foreign policy , Mutual Defense Treaty , the Visiting Forces Agreement , Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement , economic ties
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