MANILA – The campaign of President Duterte to seek economic support from China by announcing his “separation” from the United States has created confusion not just among Filipino officials, but some Chinese citizens as well, a member of the academe shared Sunday.
“Siguro ang akala ni Pangulong Duterte, iyung sinasabi niya sa US ay mag-i-impress sa mga Chinese. Sinasabi niya na ‘Ako ay independent, huwag kayong mag-alala, hindi ako tuta ng US.’ Pero based sa aking conversation sa mga Chinese counterpart, ang sinasabi nila, kami rin, naguguluhan sa Pangulo ninyo,” political analyst Prof. Richard Heydarian told radio DZMM.
[Maybe President Duterte thought that his statements about the US will impress the Chinese. He is saying ‘I am independent, don’t worry, I’m not a lapdog of the US.' But based on my conversation with Chinse counterparts, they’re saying, we are confused with your President, too.]
Heydarian said the confusion stems from the Duterte’s notoriety for issuing vague statements that are often later blunted, or even contradicted, by other senior officials.
“Ang problema kasi dito, ang daming contradictory messages na lumalabas sa ating gobyerno, palaging may clarification. Minsan iyung clarification kailangan pa ng clarification, iyung explanation kailangan pa ng explanation,” he said.
[The problem here is there are so many contradictory messages coming from our government. There is always a clarification, and the clarification itself needs further clarification at times; the explanation itself needs another explanation.]
Duterte last week announced in Beijing his "separation" from the United States following a bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. “I announce my separation from the United States both in military -- not in social -- both in military but economic,” he said.
The Filipino leader, however, clarified Friday that he will not sever US-Philippine ties, saying: “You have to take my words in the context of what I've been saying all along. It's not severance of ties because in severance of ties, you have to cut diplomatic relations. I cannot do that."
The US State Department, Japanese officials and several Filipino senators, among others, have since said they will seek clarity on Duterte’s statements.
Heydarian urged the President to carefully consult with his Cabinet, especially Foreign Affairs officials, before issuing another clarification on his foreign policy.
“Diplomacy is the art of signaling. Kapag nagko-contradict ka parati, kailangan parati ng explanation, iyung kredibilidad ng signaling mo ay bumaba [If you’re always contradicting your statement and you always need further explanation, the credibility of your signaling drops],” the analyst argued.
“Kung magulo ang messaging natin, iyung kredibilidad din natin apektado. At kung mababa ang kredibilidad natin, iyung ibang bansa ayaw rin nilang mag-deal sa atin in a serious way [If our messaging is confusing, our credibility is affected. And if our credibility is low, other countries would not want to deal with us in a serious way],” he added.
Prior to Duterte taking office in late June, China was a bitter rival of the Philippines, and Manila was one of Washington's most dependable Asian allies.
Duterte's efforts to engage China, months after a tribunal in the Hague ruled that Beijing did not have historic rights to the South China Sea in a case brought by the previous administration in Manila, marks a reversal in foreign policy since the 71-year-old former mayor took office on June 30.
His abrupt pivot from Washington to Beijing is unlikely to be universally popular at home, however. Last Tuesday, an opinion poll showed Filipinos still trust the United States far more than China. -- With a report from Reuters