The Philippines is shifting away from the United States in an attempt to ‘normalize’ its relationship with Beijing, the new Philippine envoy to China said on Monday, January 2.
“We were one-sidedly imbalanced in favor of the US,” the Philippines’ new ambassador to China, Jose “Chito” Sta. Romana, told Agence France-Presse.
For decades, the Philippines has been an ally of the U.S. but the relationship between the two countries has been put into question since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office last June.
Duterte has been constantly threatening to end the Philippines’ military and economic ties with the U.S. for the latter’s supposed ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘bullying’ of smaller nations, and also for its criticisms against the Philippine government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.
“The problem came after they began lecturing him. The president (Duterte) considers it an internal affair,” Sta. Romana said.
He then added, “The Chinese don’t comment on your internal affairs.”
Sta. Romana also described the Philippines’ shift to China as “a strategic shift in our foreign policy.”
He, however, clarified, that the Philippines is not abandoning its decades-long alliance with the U.S.
“We are basically trying to normalize our relations with China,” the envoy explained.
China has been in a long-standing territorial dispute with the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries for claiming most areas within the South China Sea as part of its territory. The arbitration tribunal at The Hague, however, ruled last year that China’s sovereignty over the waters had no legal basis, in favor of the Philippines.
“The Chinese viewed the Philippines as a geopolitical pawn or Trojan horse of the [United States]. Now they look at us as a friendly neighbor,” Sta. Romana added.
Apart from China, Duterte also previously expressed his interest of forging an alliance with Russia.
On Tuesday, January 3, the Russian navy said it is considering the prospect of having a joint military exercises with its counterpart in Philippines.
“Our governments will maybe discuss in some period of time the possibilities of our maritime exercises,” Eduard Mikhailov, deputy commander of Flotilla of Pacific Fleet of Russia, said in a conference through an interpreter.
According to Mikhailov, Russia wanted to help the Philippines in countering piracy and terrorism.
“The Philippine Navy needs some help, we will help. The problem here is terrorism and piracy. You have the task to fight this problem and we will show you what we can do,” Mikhailov said.
Two Russian navy vessels arrived in Manila on Tuesday for a goodwill visit to Philippines. The vessels were expected to stay in the country until Saturday, January 6.
“Of course, everybody has a choice. You can choose … to cooperate with United States of America or to cooperate with Russia, but from our side we can help you in every way that you need,” Mikhailov added.
He also expressed his country’s hope to have joint exercises with China and Malaysia in the future.
“We really hope that in a few years, the military exercises for example in your region, in the South China Sea, will (involve) for example, not only Russia-Philippines, but Russia, Philippines, China and maybe Malaysia together,” Mikhailov said. (Dana Sioson / AJPress)