MANILA – Four Liberal Party (LP) senators on Friday reminded President Rodrigo Duterte that the power to shape the country’s foreign policy does not rest on him alone.
Senators Leila de Lima, Franklin Drilon, Bam Aquino and Francis Pangilinan said this after Duterte announced that he was "separating" from the US and would instead align with China and Russia.
The four senators said Duterte shares the power to shape foreign policy with the Senate “in the case of treaties.”
“Taking the President's statement literally entails an abrogation of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States, a binding security and military agreement,” they said in a statement.
“The Senate needs to be clarified if the President did indeed intend to terminate the MDT.”
The MDT assures the Philippines, which has one of the weakest armed forces in Asia, that the US will come to its rescue in case of an attack in its territory and vice-versa.
Duterte, however, has cast doubts on whether the US will indeed follow its treaty obligations, claiming that the Philippines had gained nothing with its soldiers’ exercises with US troopers.
Duterte’s pivot to China marks a shift in Philippine foreign policy, which has traditionally leaned towards the United States, China’s strategic rival.
The tough-talking Filipino leader is focusing more on strengthening economic relations with China than on the their territorial and maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
The senators said Duterte must also consider international realities every time he makes pronouncements that affect the country’s foreign policy.
They noted that the US is the Philippines’ third biggest trade partner.
They said the US is also home to almost 4 million Filipino workers.
In light of the recent developments, Senator Aquino filed a resolution calling for a hearing, in aid of legislation, on the foreign policy direction of the government.
“The hearing is imperative following the recent pronouncements of President Duterte regarding the new direction of Philippine foreign policy,” the senators said.
The senators said the hearing shall scrutinize the 13 memorandum of understanding (MOUs) signed by China and the Philippines following Duterte’s state visit in China, which includes the Philippines-China Joint Coastal Guard Committee on Maritime Cooperation in disputed waters.
“The Filipino people deserve to know what the official position of the administration is and how these affect the lives of our countrymen residing in all corners of the globe,” they said.