Rody won’t rely on longtime PH ally US | Global News

Rody won’t rely on longtime PH ally US

/ 12:50 AM June 02, 2016

DAVAO CITY—President-elect Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday described Chinese leader Xi Jinping as a “great president” and said the Philippines would not rely on the United States for long-term security, hinting that frosty relations with China would soon warm and signaling greater independence from Washington in dealing with Manila’s territorial dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea.

Duterte heaped the praise on Xi in a news conference in response to questions about a message the Chinese president sent to congratulate him on winning the May 9 presidential election.

But the longtime mayor of Davao City, who has been criticized for lacking foreign policy experience, appeared unsure of Xi’s title.


“I was honored, receiving a congratulatory message from a great president, uh prime minister,” Duterte said.


The Chinese foreign ministry on Monday said that Xi wrote to Duterte after his victory, a standard diplomatic tradition for heads of state.

China’s official news agency Xinhua reported that Xi hoped the two sides would “get bilateral relations back on track of sound development.”

Soured relations

Chinese-Philippine relations soured during the six-year term of outgoing President Aquino, whose administration sued China in the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague over its claims to almost all of the South China Sea, including waters within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

A ruling is expected in the coming weeks, with the Philippines’ response to it likely to be left to Duterte, who takes office on June 30.

In contrast with Mr. Aquino, Duterte has said he is willing to engage China in bilateral talks on the dispute.


On Tuesday, he emphasized that he would not be fully reliant on the United States, the Philippines’ longtime security ally.

“We will be chartering a course of our own. It will not be dependent on America, and it will be a line not intended to please anybody but the Filipino interest,” he said.

Manila has traditionally been one of Washington’s staunchest supporters in its standoff with Beijing over the South China Sea, a vital trade route where China has built artificial islands, airstrips and other military facilities.

Multilateral talks

Duterte has backed multilateral talks to settle rows over the South China Sea that would include the United States, Japan and Australia as well as other claimant—Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

He has also called on China to respect the 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone granted to coastal states under international law.

Duterte was unveiling his Cabinet lineup a day after a joint session of Congress declared him the election winner.

Key Cabinet appointments went mainly to conventional choices, a decision likely to ease fears among foreign and domestic investors about a lurch away from reforms that have generated robust economic growth.

They also may point to a bid to resolve differences over the South China Sea.

Duterte’s pick for foreign secretary, Perfecto Yasay, has sounded a conciliatory note.

“I don’t think that there is another way of resolving this dispute except talking to each other,” Yasay told reporters this week.

“We certainly would like to make sure that we are able to resume bilateral talks because these are necessary,” he added.

China said on Wednesday it welcomed the incoming Philippine government’s proposal for bilateral talks.

Muddying the picture somewhat was the choice of Nicanor Faeldon, a former Marine who led a coup bid about a decade ago, as head of the customs bureau, the country’s second-largest agency in revenue.

In December last year, Faeldon took a group of Filipino protesters to a disputed island in the South China Sea that is held by the Philippines, triggering an angry response from China.

Asked about the Philippine arbitration case, Duterte said he was waiting for the UN court’s ruling.

“I am waiting for the arbitration. It will impact on us in so many fronts … I would like to wait for this, then, with the advice of the Cabinet, I might be able to proceed. But you know, I am not ready to go to war. It will just result in a massacre,” he said.

Duterte’s stance is a cause for worry in Washington, threatening to muddle up President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia policy as the United States tries to keep its influence in the region that an increasingly aggressive China seeks to dominate.

The United States has sent warships and surveillance planes near the artificial islands built by China in the Spratly archipelago and entered into a new security accord with the Philippines that allows the stationing of more US troops and equipment in Philippine military bases—all as a challenge to China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

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The United States is also strengthening security relations with Japan, which is locked in a dispute with China over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, and with Vietnam, which is increasingly at odds with China over territory in the South China Sea. Reports from the wires

TAGS: China, Diplomacy, Features, Global Nation, Philippine-US relations

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