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Sunday, October 23, 2016
Duterte’s foreign policy is changing the balance of power in Asia
President Rodrigo Duterte is taking the Philippines into uncharted foreign policy territory. His recent decision to move away from the shadow of the United States, where we have languished for generations, and pursue other development options with China and Russia is a bold move that has shaken the balance of power, not just in Asia, but around the world.
Despite being a small nation, the Philippines holds the key to Asia because of its strategic location that straddles the key shipping lanes where trillions of dollars in trade pass every year. This fact alone makes it an invaluable ally for any superpower, especially in an era where wars are more often fought in the boardroom than in the battlefield.
Everyone knows this, which is why other countries have always coveted the Philippines. Spain took us by force, the US through sweet talk and deception, but throughout history, our political leaders have always sold our favors short. We have never been able to command the kind of assistance that other nations who are less strategically important have been able to.
And it all boils down to leadership.
Duterte is the first Filipino leader to question the sacrosanct nature of the Philippine’s US-centric foreign policy since the American commonwealth in the 1930’s. From Quezon, to Marcos, to Aquino – Philippine interests has always been synonymous with US interests. Whatever is good for America, is also good for the Philippines. If they went to war, we went to war with them.
Their enemies were our enemies. Russia, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Iraq – all these countries were, for a time, enemies of the Philippines. Not that we had anything against them, or they harmed us in any way, but simply because the US said they were bad. And like a trained dog, we growled for them.
Today, by sheer force of political will, Duterte is pushing the Philippines away from the grip of American power and dominance, and into a whole new level of foreign relations. And at a pace and ferocity that is unprecedented.
This has obviously caught some people off guard, and those Filipinos in particular who have permanently hitched their fortunes on the benevolence of the American government, have been the most vocal in denouncing Duterte.
They decry Duterte’s bold moves, preferring instead the timid approach of past presidents who relied on the wisdom of the American government to set our foreign policy, and their benevolence for our subsistence. His critics continue to ignore the bankruptcy past policies in being able to serve the best interests of the Filipinos. Including hastening development in all areas of the country, providing security, and opening up more opportunities for partnerships with other nations.
The Philippines is at a crossroads. We can either choose to stay on this path that we have shared with the Americans for generations – the same path that has mired us in this never ending cycle of poverty and dependence. Or we can choose to go the Duterte way, to chart our own course and find our own fortunes. Independent, unencumbered, unbowed.