Duterte's pivot to China, Russia good for Philippines: analyst

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 24 2016 03:53 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to pivot towards China and Russia may be more beneficial for the Philippines as the country moves toward a more independent foreign policy, an analyst said on Monday.

Political analyst and international columnist Richard Heydarian said the Philippines would need other “big brothers” as it asserts greater independence from long-time ally United States.

“For the President, it’s more important to diversify more relationships towards Russia and China because he feels that if the Philippines wants to assert more independence from the US. And in light of human rights violations issue, you need other big brothers to help you out,” Heydarian said on “Mornings @ANC.”

At the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meeting in Peru, Duterte met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss ways to broaden economic relations with the Philippines.

Duterte, a vocal admirer of Putin, also mentioned that he is open to the Russian leader’s invitation to visit Moscow.

According to Heydarian, there is room for improving bilateral and economic relations with Russia since it is a market that the Philippines has not broadly explored yet.

“We’re running a huge trade deficit with Russia. There’s room for us to improve that not only in closing the deficit but also increasing bilateral relations in general,” Heydarian said.

In terms of bilateral relations with China, Heydarian praised Duterte’s proposal to declare the lagoon portion of Scarborough Shoal as a “marine sanctuary,” saying it is a “good step in the right direction” given the sensitivity of the issue.

“It is good to set aside the issue of sovereignty for the meantime and focus on areas of common interests. A marine sanctuary is one way for both sides to rebuild the confidence and trust that has been lost over the past few years,” Heydarian said.

Cabinet Secretaries during the APEC summit in Peru said Duterte will soon declare the lagoon portion of Scarborough Shoal as a “marine sanctuary and no-fish zone,” a “unilateral decision” he relayed to President Xi.

'POST-AMERICAN WORLD'

According to Heydarian, countries such as Russia, China, Brazil and India may soon gain increasing relevance as global powers, given the election of US President-elect Donald Trump, whose campaign policy is anchored on putting America first, affecting its reputation as a “global policeman" and ushering a "post-American world."

Heydarian said Duterte “makes perfect sense” if his decisions and actions to pivot to Russia and China are preparations for a post-American era, given that the two countries may soon become important global powers.

“It’s probably good to invest more in those bilateral relations with different countries regardless of their ideological leanings,” Heydarian said.