MANILA — The country's foreign policy was made more "dynamic" under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, a political analyst said Wednesday.
According to UP political science professor Aries Arugay, the country's pivot to "unconventional" partners has "pushed the boundaries of our foreign policy positions."
"I think it somehow made the Philippine foreign relations a bit more dynamic with new relationships with erstwhile unconventional partners that includes China, Russia and even Israel and other countries," Arugay told ANC's "Rundown".
His remarks were made following last week's summit by officials of the outgoing Duterte administration highlighting their achievements in the past 6 years.
While Duterte's foreign policy led the Philippines to expand its more traditional repertoire of alliances and partners, Arugay said this needs to be weighed in terms of its implications on the country's international standing.
"I think in the end, we must ask the question: Is the Philippines' international position stronger than before the Duterte administration assumed office?" he said.
"Are we more credible as an international partner in specific areas of policy that we are interested in, or whether or not we continue to be able to defend our national and strategic interests," added Arugay, who is currently a visiting fellow at the ISEAS-Yusolf Ishak Institute in Singapore.
When Duterte assumed office in 2016, he distanced the Philippines from its longtime ally United States and forged friendlier relations with China and Russia.
This despite Manila's maritime dispute with Beijing over the West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone in the resource-rich South China Sea.
China continues to claim the South China Sea in its near entirety despite an arbitration court invalidating it in 2016.
In February 2020, Duterte unilaterally canceled a 2-decade-old military agreement with the US, in an angry response to the cancellation of the US visa of Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, his former police chief who was at the helm of his bloody war on drugs.
But Duterte changed his mind in July 2021 and fully restored the Visiting Forces Agreement.
Then-Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said in 2016 that Duterte's declaration of separation from the US "implies breaking away from the debilitating mindset of dependency and subservience - economically and militarily - that have perpetuated our 'little brown brother' image to America, which has stunted our growth and advancement."
"It is for this reason that President Duterte has fashioned a new course towards integration and dynamic economic and trade relations with Asean and our Asian neighbors, especially with China, Japan, and South Korea, that have offered us assistance, support and cooperation without any political strings attached," said Yasay, who died in June 2020.
When former Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano took the helm of the Department of Foreign Affairs from May 2017, he trumpeted the Duterte government's independent foreign policy as essentially being friends to all and enemies to none, and that the main consideration will be the interests and welfare of the Filipinos.
Incumbent DFA chief Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin, Jr. "toughened" the policy to being "friends to friends, enemies to enemies and a worse enemy to false friends."
Duterte's term ends on June 30.