The topic of national alliances and economic relationships being severed is always cause for concern. This is why headlines were made when Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced an apparent intention to be “separated” from the US.
Duterte has been vocal concerning his opposition to several US economic policies. He spoke plainly at a speech in Davao City, his southern hometown. He claimed he would never travel to America in this lifetime.
But the main noteworthy comment was the one made in Beijing, during an economic meeting. The Philippine President declared separation from the US both in its military and its economy. Given the importance of world trade, this type of declaration understandably caught the attention of many.
Trefor Moss, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, noted that tensions were high after a meeting in Laos with world leaders earlier this year. Duterte apparently felt that President Obama disrespected him by promising a follow-up from the White House. His issue is based on the fact that he apparently expected a response directly.
But while the thought of a severed national relationship is troubling, this tension may be the result of a misunderstanding. Duterte noted in a recent speech that he would not be severing ties with the US. His reason for keeping the relationship is for diplomatic purposes, citing the relationship as being in the best interest of his country and its citizens.
National relations have always helped countries maintain peaceful relations by helping to concentrate their economic, political, and military policies in a way that supports their own interests as well as those of their allies.
According to Duterte, his comments were less about ending a friendly relationship with the nation and more about opposing certain policies which heavily involve the US. He had been noted as vocal about curbing US forces near his country’s south border, and opposing planned patrols with US naval forces in the South China Sea.
The country is expected to work closer with China for economic purposes. Shifting focus to China instead of the US may result in small economic changes, but they certainly pale in comparison to those which would be present if the Philippines severed their relations with the US altogether.
China and the Philippines have been involved in a continued dispute over territories located around the South China Sea. China’s ongoing relationship and ties with the US has in turn caused the Philippine president to draw even more ire for their comments about the country.
The main criticism concerning the comments were that they created a sense of confusion and uncertainty. It seems that Duterte’s presentation and past history had many people skeptical about how the country and the region would cooperate with the US in future trade and defense agreements.
An embassy spokeswoman noted that the troubling rhetoric drew into question the validity of treaty obligations. The US is planning on honoring all current and past obligations, and since Duterte’s comments have now been clarified, it is expected that the Philippines will honor their agreements as well.