DFA: Independent foreign policy is about 'balance'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) defines the government's "independent foreign policy" as one characterized by balance. This follows President Rodrigo Duterte's series of harsh statements about the United States – and friendly ones about China and Russia.

DFA Spokesperson Charles Jose said on Wednesday, "Meaning nung ''independent foreign policy,' hindi tayo subject to any outside pressure and interference. Meaning nun, ibabalanse natin ang ating relations, no?"

[Translation: An "independent foreign policy" means we're not subject to any outside pressure and interference. It means we strike a balance among our (foreign) relations, no?]

Jose points out, a move towards an "independent foreign policy" is nothing new, as the 1987 Constitution mandates it. He said the country's foreign policy should safeguard national interest, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and self-determination. It should also strive for amity with all nations.

PH-U.S. ties 'will endure'

Duterte's tirades against alleged U.S. atrocities during the colonial period, and his call for an exit of U.S. forces in Mindanao, have caused some analysts to worry about the future of bilateral relations.

The U.S. is the Philippines' sole treaty ally – and some analysts said Duterte's harsh rhetoric towards the U.S. may undermine the alliance.

But in a telephonic conference on Wednesday, the U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN, Nina Hachigian, said, "The US-Philippines relationship is one of the most enduring and important relationships that we have in the Asia-Pacific region." She added that she "fully expects" the alliance "will endure and remain strong because it is in the great interest of both nations to maintain it."

Hachigian said the U.S.'s ASEAN mission has started meeting with the Duterte administration to "discuss shared priorities and programs." She did not elaborate on this matter.

Duterte himself affirmed that his administration will honor existing treaties and alliances – and it appears he is out to build new ones.

New allies?

Duterte recently revealed that he is working out a military capacity build-up deal with Russia and China.

Duterte has openly spoken of his intention to reopen ties with Beijing. He recently sent former President Fidel V. Ramos as a special envoy to "break the ice" ahead of efforts to resolve the maritime dispute between the two countries.

A Reuters report says China Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin on Tuesday told a Philippine delegation in Beijing that ties between the Philippines and China are "at a turning point."

'Wherever is beneficial'

If recent events are any indication, it appears the Duterte administration's 'independent foreign policy' is one of pragmatic balance in relations with the Asia-Pacific region's prominent powers.

"Sabi nga ni Secretary Yasay din noon, no? Kung pumunta sa isang side, hindi naman ibig-sabihin ay mababawasan yung relationship with the others," Jose told reporters. "Kung saan mas makakabuti para sa ating bansa, para sa ating tao, dun tayo pepwesto, no?"

[Translation: As Secretary Yasay already said, if our (foreign relations) broaden towards one side, it does not necessarily mean abandoning the relationship with the others. Wherever is most beneficial to our country, to our people, that's where we will place ourselves, no?]