Duterte told on foreign policy: Be friend to all, subservient to none

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 20 2016 06:34 PM | Updated as of Dec 20 2016 07:28 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Grace Poe and Senator Ralph Recto

MANILA - Two senators have advised President Rodrigo Duterte to make clear his foreign policies, and to perhaps adopt a "friend to all" and yet not subservient to any country stance. 

Speaking on ANC's Headstart Tuesday, Senator Grace Poe described Duterte's foreign policy as "unclear," and insisted that the country need not sever ties with one country to pursue better relations with another.

"His foreign policy objectives to me are unclear. We are allies with the West traditionally and we’re not saying keep it there. We can gain more friends but we don’t have to get rid of the others that we already have," she said.

"Our policy should be an independent foreign policy but we should not be an isolationist, neither should we favor one particular country over another," she added.

"We can continue being friends with all as long as we are not subservient to anyone."

Poe also scored Duterte for his statement that the arbitration decision that favored Manila over Beijing in its maritime claims in the South China Sea will only be used at the end of his term.

"Why does it have to be six years? Why not now? As everyone is saying, I guess there’s politics involved. Yes, we can maintain diplomacy with all these countries, but we should put our foot down and say we do not agree with that," she said.

"Why are we so lenient on one particular country and being harsh on another right now?," she added.

She emphasized, the Philippines may pursue independent foreign policy, but it doesn't mean siding with China and being hostile with another country.

Poe also found Duterte hitting the United States in front of its new ambassador to the Philippines "uncalled for."

"Whatever your personal reasons are, I think that you should be a little more tempered when it comes to your pronouncements because you carry on your shoulders now not just the weight of your own beliefs, but what’s best for the country," she said.

Duterte on Monday lashed at the US in an event in Malacañang attended by Ambassador Sung Kim. 

Duterte said the country does not need the United States' help and that it can get a bigger financial grant from China. This, after the Millennium Challenge Corporation decided to defer aid to the Philippines due to alleged human rights violations.

'WE DO NOT DUMP OLD FRIENDS FOR NEW SUITORS'

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Floor Leader Ralph Recto said in a statement the Philippines would be better off pivoting to an independent foreign policy position than siding with any of the big powers. 
 
"Our motto should be: 'Friend to all, but subservient to none.' In other words, amity to all, hostility to no one," Recto said. 

He underscored, foreign policy rebalancing should not mean that "we dump old friends for new suitors." 
 
"So what's the advantage of running away from the claws of the American eagle only to rush to the embrace of a Chinese or Russian bear?" he said.

Recto said the Philippines must maintain friendship with all nations, even those it has "ongoing differences" with, asserting that it "must continuously engage, not disengage." 

He argued, one of the important engagement points "is the matter of trade and aid, but preferably more of the former."
 
"We should reel in both, from all nations, but always doing so from our national interest. We should only accept aid without bad strings attached, the ones that will not cause dependency, or massive surrender of sovereignty, or ballooning of debts," Recto said.