Duterte aligns Philippines with China, announces separation with US
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday announced his “separation” from the United States, declaring that he had realigned with China as the two agreed to resolve the South China Sea dispute through talks.
Duterte made his comments in Beijing, where he is visiting with at least 200 business people to pave the way for what he calls a new commercial alliance as relations with longtime ally Washington deteriorate.
“In this venue, your honours, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States,” Duterte told Chinese and Philippine business people, to applause, at a forum in the Great Hall of the People attended by Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli.
“Both in military, not maybe social, but economics also. America has lost,” he added.
Duterte’s efforts to engage China, months after a tribunal in The Hague ruled that Beijing did not have historic rights to the South China Sea in a case brought by the previous administration in Manila, marks a reversal in foreign policy since the 71-year-old former mayor took office on June 30.
His trade secretary, Ramon Lopez, said $13.5-billion deals would be signed during the China trip.
“I have realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world – China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way,” Duterte said.
Duterte’s remarks will prompt fresh concern in the US, where the Barack Obama administration has seen Manila as a key ally in its “rebalance” of resources to Asia in the face of a rising China. The administration agreed a deal with Duterte’s predecessor granting US forces rotational access to bases in the Philippines and further doubts will be raised about the future of this arrangement.
However, a White House spokesman stressed the traditional bonds between Washington and Manila when asked about Duterte’s comments and stuck to a US approach of seeking to play down the Philippine leader’s repeated attacks. “The US-Philippines alliance is built on a 70-year history, rich people-to-people ties, including a vibrant Filipino-American diaspora, and a long list of shared security interests,” said spokesman Ned Price.
He added: “We also remain one of the Philippines’ strongest economic partners; the current stock of the US foreign direct investment stands above $4.7 billion.”
A few hours after Duterte’s speech, his top economic policymakers released a statement saying that, while Asian economic integration was “long overdue”, that did not mean the Philippines was turning its back on the West. “We will maintain relations with the West but we desire stronger integration with our neighbours,” said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia in a joint statement. "We share the culture and a better understanding with our region."
RED CARPET WELCOME
China has pulled out all the stops to welcome Duterte, including a marching band complete with baton-twirling band master at his official greeting ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People, which is not extended to most leaders.
President Xi Jinping, meeting Duterte earlier in the day, called the visit a “milestone” in ties. Xi told Duterte that China and the Philippines were brothers and they could "appropriately handle disputes", though he did not mention the South China Sea in remarks made in front of reporters. “I hope we can follow the wishes of the people and use this visit as an opportunity to push China-Philippines relations back on a friendly footing and fully improve things,” Xi said.
Following their meeting, during which Duterte said relations with China had entered a new “springtime”, Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said the South China Sea issue was not the sum total of relations.
SEA TAKES BACK SEAT
Duterte’s tone towards Beijing is in stark contrast to the language that he has used against the US, after being infuriated by the latter’s criticism of his bloody war on drugs. He has called US President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch” and told his to “go to hell”, while alluding to severing ties with the old colonial power.
On Wednesday, to the cheers of hundreds of Filipinos in Beijing, Duterte said Philippine foreign policy was veering towards China.
“I will not go to America anymore. We will just be insulted there,” Duterte said. “So time to say goodbye my friend.”
The same day, about 1,000 anti-US protesters gathered outside the US embassy in Manila calling for the removal of US troops from the southern island of Mindanao.
‘Springtime’ of friendship
Duterte, along with around 200 businessmen, is in Beijing to pave way for a ‘new commercial alliance’ as relations with longtime ally Washington deteriorate
His trade secretary said $13.5-billion deals would be signed during the China trip
Duterte’s efforts to engage China, months after The Hague ruled that Beijing did not have historic rights to the South China Sea, marks a reversal in the Philippines’ foreign policy since he assumed office on June 30
Xi Jinping said China and the Philippines were brothers and they could “appropriately handle disputes”
Duterte’s remarks will prompt fresh concern in the US, which has seen Manila as a key ally in its rebalance of resources to Asia in the face of a rising China
China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year
Neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims
In 2012, China seized the Scarborough Shoal and denied Philippine fishermen access to its fishing grounds
Both in military, not maybe social, but economics also. America has lost
I hope we use this visit to push China-Philippines relations back on a friendly footing