PH-US 'divorce' will not happen, says aide

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 24 2016 05:35 PM

MANILA - A presidential consultant believes a "divorce" between the Philippines and the United States is unlikely to happen and was not in President Rodrigo Duterte's mind when he announced a "separation" with the US. 

Speaking to ANC, Presidential Consultant on Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said Duterte has good intentions over his announcement of "separation" from the US.

"The President...doesn’t want to alienate the Americans. I think maybe out of his enthusiasm to really mend the relationship with China, he said some things that were maybe a little bit stronger than it should be, but that was not the intention. I think he really means well," he said.

"He wants us to continue our relationship with America, but not follow what America wants us to do—that’s what he is trying to say," he added.

Concepcion said the US remains the country's biggest trading partner, with many American companies investing in the business processing outsourcing (BPO) industry in the Philippines. 

He said a "divorce" from America will not happen since the Philippines owes a lot to the US including help during World War II and influx of franchising concepts. 

"A lot of BPOs, and a lot of Filipinos live in America, and that’s why in his statement that he made the other day, [he said] that Filipinos will kill him if we totally divorce from America. So that’s not gonna happen, and I don’t think that’s in his mind," said Concepcion.

"You really can’t set aside America. America is a long-time partner, but in the end we’re just hoping that America allows us to grow up. We’re already a big boy, we’re investment rate, and we should be able to make our own judgment on certain issues such as the China case."

While in Beijing for a state visit, Duterte last week announced his "separation" from the US, just a day after he said it was "time to say goodbye" from Washington.

Then arriving in Davao on Friday, Duterte clarified that he will not sever the Philippines' ties with the United States.

THE DUTERTE APPROACH

Concepcion said what's different with Duterte's relationship with China is he brought with him the "Filipino approach" - by coming to the talks without the shadow of the US looming over the discussions. 

He said the Filipino approach means not bringing another party when trying to talk business with a different partner. 

"Filipinos are very friendly. You don’t bring a big resbak with you, and try to say you want to improve relationship. What will the Chinese say? They’ll say: 'Are you really serious in building a relationship with us?" he said.

"This strategy, we will see how it will play. I think it’s the right approach. I think the Chinese really welcomed the president this time and there is a lot of goodwill that has been built here, and I think the rebuilding of trust is very important on both sides, and that trust starts with changing the way we do things."

These renewed ties between Manila and Beijing, said Concepcion, will bring not only military peace, but "greater prosperity for all," especially on many small businesses in the country, tourism, and the agriculture sector after lifting an advisory to Chinese citizens on travel to the Philippines and restrictions on Philippine exports, and inking of multi-billion dollar deals.

"The synergy is there, so if you have the relationship improving, there will be more partnerships that will happen," said Concepcion.

PCCI president George Barcelon, also part of the delegation in China, said Filipinos may soon ease into the idea of closer ties with China if both countries worked on developing people to people relationship.

"Just to put things in the right perspective, we have half a million visitors from China, Thailand has 9 million visitors from China. Look at this disparity, that alone can give us a big boost, the trickle-down effect" he said.

Barcelon is also unperturbed by previously penned deals with the Chinese which were smeared with controversies, like the suspended railway project in Indonesia and the NBN-ZTE broadband project and the North Rail project in the Philippines.

"Maybe we have to take this case to case. But the fact is they also published it in their paper about some of these projects, and I would think for a country like China, once they promise—in any project, there’s bound to be some ups and downs—but the key projects in infrastructure, I think they’ll see to it because that’s the biggest impact for them to really have the Filipino realize that you’re helping us," he said.