Duterte foreign policy 'directionless': ex-envoy

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 29 2016 06:17 PM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte's foreign policy remains "directionless" six months into his administration, as the Philippines is left with few options to assert its claim in the South China Sea, a former diplomat said.

It was "naive" of Duterte to warm up to China while "taking for granted" traditional Western allies, said retired Ambassador Jose Apolinario Lozada.

"He did not really realize that international relations are so complex," the former diplomat told ABS-CBN News.

Lozada said it remains to be seen if Duterte can still clarify his foreign policy other than just declaring that it should be an "independent" one.

"It's still directionless," said Lozada, who's espousing a policy of "interdependence."

"What we have not explained in the last six months would be very very difficult to explain in the incoming six months."

The Philippines lost whatever ability it had to "control or influence events" in the South China Sea when Duterte opted to "set aside" an arbitration ruling that rejected Beijing's sweeping claims in the area, said Prof. Jay Batongbacal of the U.P. Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.

Batongbacal said Beijing would continue to flex its muscles in the disputed area despite its supposedly improved relations with Manila.

"Hindi s'ya matitinag dun, habang tayo patuloy na humihina ang ating posisyon at yung options natin, nababawasan nang nababawasan," Batongbacal said.

"The way I see it, we have given everything to China already," Lozada said.

CHINA AID

By this time, China has come to realize it could handle the maritime dispute with the Philippines by simply dangling millions of dollars in aid, Batongbacal said.

"Basta bigyan mo lang ng aid, assistance, bigyan mo lang ng pera," he told ABS-CBN News.

Duterte's state visit in October yielded an estimated $24 billion in business deals and investment pledges from China.

Duterte earlier claimed he could secure from China or Russia whatever financial assistance the Philippines might lose from the United States, which has criticized his brutal campaign against illegal drugs.

"Parang yung handling nya kasi ng international relations, parang pareho dun sa pag-handle nya sa local politics--kakampi ka sa kung sino ang malakas, kung sino makakapagbigay ng benepisyo sa'yo," Batongbacal said.