Much has been said about President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to China but nothing more confounding than when he blurted out the following at a meeting of Filipino and Chinese businessmen, this after he met China President Xi Jinping: “I announce my separation from the United States, both in military but economics also.”
Many foreign countries went agog hearing this considering how close and tight our ties has been with the US.
It does not mean that Filipinos here and abroad didn’t feel dismayed and stunned at the same time.
But knowing Duterte who shoots his mouth faster than his brain could process the repercussion of his statements, I knew there was going to follow some elucidating explanation, and indeed there was.
Perhaps after much soul searching, Duterte realized that what he really wanted to say to China, and for the world to understand too, is that he simply wanted “a separation of foreign policy” and not “a severance of ties”, which for all intents and purposes is giving up complete diplomatic relations.
“It is not severance of ties. You say severance of ties, you cut the diplomatic relations. I cannot do that,” Duterte admitted.
With Duterte as president, we Filipinos have learned to adapt having tongue in cheek for every major statement he makes.
But having said that still we do not doubt Duterte’s good intention in deciding to make a historic pivot to China, as much as it bewilders the whole world, because present circumstances in the region, specifically in the South China Sea (SCS), warrants that he, as the country’s leader, has to solve the problem we are having with China in our territorial and jurisdictional dispute with them.
The international court may have ruled in favor of the Philippines, but does it mean that the problem the Filipino fishermen are having have been resolved already – that they can go back fishing in our own inherent exclusive economic zones when China do not respect the ruling, much less recognize the ruling body?
Of course not and we cannot depend on anybody else, and not even the US, to take the cudgels for us but our own selves.
Duterte’s pivot to China is not about ideological aligning but rather a move that will determine how the country should chart its own future considering that China has expanded and is now situated in our own backyard, so to say.
Lest the world forgets, Duterte is doing this pivot, much to the chagrin of the US, because if the latter was not able to prevent the expansionism of China in the SCS, while they could have years before, who else is going to help us improve our lot and protect us if not our own selves.
Duterte’s move is about making more friends, especially those whom you can’t simply shoo away because of its economic and military power.
Think about it.