Senators seek clarification on Duterte’s foreign policy stance
Four senators on Friday sought clarification on the pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte announcing the Philippines’ “separation” from the United States on Thursday during his state visit to China.
Speaking before Filipino and Chinese businessmen in Beijing, President Duterte said: “In this venue, I announce my separation from the United States, both in military … not in the social … both in military [and] economics.”
In a statement, Senators Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, Leila de Lima, Franklin Drilon and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said while the President was “the chief architect of Philippine foreign policy,” he shared with the Senate the power to revoke treaties.
“Taking the President’s statement literally entails an abrogation of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States, a binding security and military agreement,” they said.
“The Senate needs to be clarified if the President did indeed intend to terminate the MDT.”
In line with this appeal, Aquino has filed a resolution calling for a hearing on the foreign policy stance of the government.
“We support Sen. Bam Aquino’s Senate Resolution 158 calling on the Senate committees on foreign relations and economic affairs to conduct a hearing, in aid of legislation, on the foreign policy direction of the government with the end view of protecting our national interest,” the senators said.
“The hearing should reveal the terms of the 13 agreements and memoranda of understanding, including the reported $6 billion in soft loans, $3 billion in credit facilities through private Chinese banks, and the Joint Coastal Guard Committee on Maritime Cooperation in disputed waters, signed during the President’s state visit to China.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Duterte on Wednesday agreed to resolve its maritime issues through bilateral talks. Part of the deal was the signing of 13 agreements and memoranda of understanding, including establishing a “Joint Coastal Guard Committee on Maritime Cooperation.”
The senators said the hearing should urge the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Finance, and Trade and Investments to explain the implications of the Duterte’s recent pronouncements.
“The Filipino people deserve to know what the official position of the administration is and how this affects the lives of our countrymen residing in all corners of the globe,” they said.
The statement also said that the Constitution, which dictated “the general direction of our foreign policy,” stated that the country couldn’t “start a fight,” but it shouldn’t back out of a battle for sovereignty, citing the Philippines’ victory using “diplomatic and legal instruments” in the international arbitral tribunal over the West Philippine Sea dispute.
“We are in agreement that the Philippines needs an independent foreign policy, one that protects and champions the interests of the Filipino people, one that is not pro-American and not pro-China but pro-Filipino, ensuring that the conventions and agreements we sign will benefit Filipino citizens,” it said.
The senators noted that the Philippines’ top three trading partners were Japan ($8.765 billion), China ($7.812 billion), and the US ($7.743 billion), as the country’s total external trade in goods for the first semester of 2015 reached $ 59.61 billion, citing latest government data.
Also in 2015, approved foreign investments was at P245.2 billion, with Netherlands contributing P82.7 billion, and Japan and South Korea spending P54.7 billion and P23.2 billion respectively, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Their statement also said more than 10 million overseas Filipino workers sent $25.8 billion in remittances in 2015 alone, four million of which were in the US, according to information from the Commission of Filipinos Overseas.
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