Philippine leader ‘separates’ from US
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced his “separation” from the United States on Thursday, declaring he had realigned with China as the two nations agreed to resolve their South China Sea dispute through talks.
Duterte made his comments in Beijing, where he was visiting with at least 200 businesspeople to pave the way for what he calls a new commercial alliance as relations with longtime ally Washington deteriorate.
“In this venue, your honours, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States,” Duterte told Chinese and Philippine businesspeople to applause at a forum in the Great Hall of the People attended by Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli.
“Both in military, not maybe social, but economics also. America has lost,” Duterte said.
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 trade secretary, Ramon Lopez, said $13.5 billion in deals would be signed during the China trip.
The Obama administration agreed to a deal with Duterte’s predecessor granting US forces rotational access to bases in the Philippines and further doubts will be raised about the future of this arrangement.
“The US-Philippine alliance is built on a 70-year history, rich people to people ties and a long list of shared security concerns,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters. “We have not received any official requests from Filipino officials to alter any of our many issues where we bilaterally cooperate.”
Schultz said the White House does not view Manila’s relationship with China as a
Your honours, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States.” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaking in Beijing
“zero sum game.”
“We believe that it’s in our national security interests when our partners and allies in the region have strong relationships with China,” he said.
A few hours after Duterte’s speech, his top economic policymakers released a statement saying that, while Asian economic integration was “long overdue”, that did not mean the Philippines was turning its back on the West.
“We will maintain relations with the West but we desire stronger integration with our neighbours,” said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia in a joint statement. “We share the culture and a better understanding with our region.”
In response to Duterte’s comments, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said: “We still hold that it is inexplicably at odds with the very close relationship that we have with the Filipino people, as well as the government there, on many different levels, not just from a security perspective.
“We are going to be seeking an explanation of exactly what the president meant when he talked about separation from the US. It’s not clear to us exactly what that means in all its ramifications,” Kirby told a daily briefing.
Kirby added that the US remains “rock solid in our commitment in the mutual defense treaty that we have with the Philippines. That hasn’t changed,” he said.
“This is a significant development, one that has been lost, at least for the moment, in the noise of the US presidential election,” said Jon Taylor, professor of political science at the University of St Thomas in Houston.
“Obama has touted a pivot to Asia, primarily with the aim, frankly, of counterbalancing China. Instead, Duterte has pulled off his own pivot – in this case to China. This has some real implications for American influence in Asia and the Pacific,” he said.
Taylor said in many respects this was not a complete surprise given the personal contention between Obama and Duterte.
“Although the 15 percent tax brings inconvenience to overseas buyers, I plan to invest in Canada to build residential property in the next two to three years, especially for the Chinese buyers,” Frank Wu, one of China’s top real estate moguls, said on Monday in Montreal.
The tour is taking place only a few weeks after an exchange of high-level official visits — Trudeau’s recent trip to China, followed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Canada.
The travelling members met with Trudeau north of Ottawa, near Quebec’s Meech Lake on Tuesday.
Trudeau has shown more willingness to do business with the world’s second-biggest economy than the previous Conservative government — he’s even committed to launching exploratory freetrade talks.
With an objective of bolstering public diplomacy for the Chinese private sector, the club members, made up of 50 top Chinese firms with a combined annual gross income of $585 billion, planned many high-level meetings with Canada’s business and political elite.
Canada is the ninth destination country for the club’s annual visits, following successful trips to the United States, UK, France, Belgium, Australia, Singapore, Germany and Italy.
President Xi Jinping holds a welcoming ceremony to greet Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Beijing on Thursday.