The Duterte administration's bold efforts to pursue an independent foreign policy is expected to reap economic benefits that will allow the country to assume a crucial emerging role as the Pivot for Peace in the Asia-Pacific.
Respected minds in the field of geopolitics, economics, foreign policy and history have lauded President Rodrigo Duterte’s bold efforts to pursue an independent foreign policy, one that is less dependent on the U.S., and veers toward developing closer ties with Asian economies. These experts said that Duterte’s independent foreign policy has successfully paved way for new trading partners and allies such as the world’s second largest economy China and energy superpower Russia, and brought about record-high economic gains from traditional ally Japan.
President Duterte declared that he would be “separating” from the US in terms of security and the economy, later on clarifying that the Philippines is not cutting ties with U.S. but is just pursuing a more independent foreign policy “where the national interest is paramount.”
In support of the Duterte administration’s foreign policy trajectory, former Washington Press Attache Ado Paglinawan recommended that the current administration should hasten the review of agreements and treaties that bind the lopsided relationship of Philippines with the United States such as:
1) The Mutual Defense Treaty, which legalized the countries’ agreement of coming to each other’s defense against an armed attack;
2) The Mutual Bases Agreement, which allowed the US to establish, maintain and operate air and naval bases in the country (Pangilinan noted that though the treaty was terminated in 1991, it lives in spirit through the Visiting Forces Agreement which revitalized the countries’ military relations); and
3) The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which gives U.S. troops and equipment wide access to Philippine military bases on a rotational basis
General Victor Corpus (Ret. AFP), on the other hand is optimistic that as the country leans over to China in the course of diversifying its economic basket, issues over the disputed Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal may be used as negotiating cards to position the country as the easternmost terminal hub of the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road or “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) project.
Meanwhile, renowned economist George Siy said the Philippines must take full advantage over the formation of Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to expand the country’s source of infrastructure development funding. AIIB does not impose loan conditions unlike other financial institutions of similar nature.
On the fiscal side, former Department of Education Undersecretary Butch Valdes said the journey to a strong foreign policy shall begin with redefining the Philippines’ economic orientation, which has long been dependent upon the dictates of international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He said that should the Philippine Peso successfully remove its ties to the US dollar as the currency of conversion of debt and net foreign trade and currency reserves, the country will no longer be affected by the volatility of the US economy.
Ultimately, these geopolitics and economics experts agree that through President Duterte’s foreign policy diversification strategy, the Philippines now holds a crucial emerging role as the Pivot for Peace in the Asia-Pacific – serving as fulcrum for the balance-of-power in a Multi-Polar World. This role has been made more relevant as the Philippines assumes the role as chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this 2017. ASEAN will be celebrating its 50th year of existence as a regional organization.
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