Yasay: No backtracking on separating Philippine foreign policy from U.S.

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

In an exclusive interview with CNN Philippines, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay clarified President Duterte's statement on "separating" from the U.S.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said the Duterte government is not backtracking on separating Philippine foreign policy from the U.S.

In an exclusive interview with CNN Philippines, Yasay said the president's intended message is that the Philippines is freeing itself from America's tight grip on many of its affairs.

During a business forum in Beijing on Thursday, Duterte announced a military and economic "separation" from the U.S.

But Duterte clarified that he is not cutting ties with the U.S., an old-time ally. Instead, he wants to chart an independent foreign policy.

Critics accused Duterte of backtracking on his original statement.

"The question is, are we really backtracking? Or are they (America) saying it precisely from the viewpoint of their national interest?" said Yasay.

Yasay added, the U.S. has long provided the Philippines help – but with strings attached, such as policy requirements or concessions favorable to America.

However, Yasay said the Philippines and the U.S. will remain friends: "We will continue to respect our agreements with you. We know the many things that you have extended to us in the past for which we are grateful for."

Friendly with China

Duterte has been criticized for being too friendly towards China.

The Kabataan Partylist finds it suspicious that the joint statement released by Duterte and China president Xi Jinping does not mention the U.N. Arbitral Tribunal's ruling on the South China Sea dispute that favored the Philippines.

The Tribunal in the Hague concluded that " there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the 'nine-dash line." It also  declared that " certain sea areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China."

Yasay said the timing just wasn't right. He said Duterte's goal in visiting China was to befriend it first.

"You will not be able to engage yourselves in an effective, efficient bilateral talks or negotiations unless there is mutual trust and confidence in each other. You fear the other and the other fears you, you will never succeed," the secretary said.

He added that the "bilateral consultation mechanism" referred to in the joint statement released during the President's state visit to China  doesn't involve the maritime dispute.

Rather, it involves the economic and business deals forged in Beijing.

Despite Duterte saying China has historic rights to the Scarborough Shoal, Yasay said they will stick to the arbitration ruling during negotiations.

CNN Philippines Correspondent JC Gotinga contributed to this report.