Andanar: Time to move forward with US-PH relations
THE administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed its willingness to work with United States President Donald Trump and sees a strengthening in the relationship between the two countries.
Philippine Communications Secretary Martin Andanar — who went to Washington to meet with various U.S. officials and to attend Trump’s inauguration last week — made a stop to Los Angeles on Monday, January 23 to meet with members of the Filipino-American community and to discuss a range of issues from U.S.-PH relations to the administration’s campaign against illicit drugs.
“The relationship of the United States and the Philippines go beyond personalities. We have been allies since time immemorial…,” Andanar told the audience. “It was unfortunate that President [Barack] Obama and President Duterte had some skirmish, they didn’t see eye to eye but it’s time to move forward.”
Following the inauguration on Friday, Duterte praised Trump for being a wealthy businessman and for having a ‘beautiful’ wife. Since Duterte won the presidential election last May, many have drawn comparisons between him and Trump, namely for their unfiltered, hardline rhetoric.
“He is a billionaire. His wife is very beautiful. I envy him,” Duterte said during the birthday party of Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa on Sunday night, Jan. 22.
The two leaders previously spoke last December when Duterte congratulated Trump for his win in the November election. Duterte said that Trump reportedly lauded the Philippine government’s handling of illegal drugs as the “right way.”
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella added that the government was looking forward to “working closely with the new administration of President Trump anchored on mutual respect, mutual benefit and shared commitment to democratic ideals and the rule of law.”
This sudden shift comes after months of remarks Duterte had made appearing to distance the Philippines from the U.S. and lashing out at former President Barack Obama’s administration for criticizing the anti-drug campaign and the extrajudicial killings associated with it.
Andanar added that while the Philippine government is still awaiting official policies from the new U.S. administration, the similarities between the two leaders suggested that they “hit it off right away.”
“President Trump mentioned in his speech about ‘America First’ policy and the Philippines, President [Duterte] also subscribes to the idea of giving Filipinos first dibs to everything,” the communications secretary said.
In his inaugural speech, the 45th president of the U.S. declared that “it’s going to be America First,” meaning that any decision made by the federal government would be to the benefit of “American workers and American families.”
“We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American,” Trump added.
Despite Trump’s vow to keep jobs in the U.S., Andanar said that wouldn’t affect the BPO industry in the Philippines because businesses “need to be in an environment where they can maximize their investments.”
Later in his speech, Trump noted issues of poverty, crime and drugs that “have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”
“President Trump also mentioned they will not encourage asking other countries to follow their own lifestyle and President Trump also said that he wants to fight illegal drugs in the United States, the same way our president wants to fight illegal drugs. President Trump believes in non-interference and what’s important here is that we have two presidents who have similar policies,” Andanar said.
Further, during his presidential campaign, Trump gained traction for his promises to curb undocumented immigration. On Monday, the White House said it would prioritize deportations for criminal undocumented immigrants first. It has yet to announce any moves to remove any past policies implemented by Obama.
The Duterte administration will be monitoring these incoming policies, given the sheer size of undocumented Filipinos in the U.S. However, Andanar said the Philippine government would not interfere or try to sway any decisions.
“I can tell you right now that our president cares for any Filipino, not only in the Philippines, but around the world — he cares for them. If you’re asking me what our policy is right now, we have to respect the new administration, they are still in a transition,” Andanar said. “We have to wait and see which policies they will push forward, which policies they announced during the campaign…we respect the political and democratic process here in the U.S. and as I mentioned, non-interference.”
Earlier on Monday, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), one of Obama’s signature efforts to pivot toward the Asia-Pacific region. The Philippines, however, is not one of the 12 nations that signed onto the deal. Duterte had yet to respond to his American counterpart’s actions, as of press time.
Andanar also took the community meeting to clarify the Duterte administration’s relationship with the press and the president’s colorful remarks. He said that the president employs “language that most Visayans would understand.”
“How does it get misquoted?…In this day and age of internet and social media, it is a fact, my friends, that the majority of us no longer read the inner pages of the newspaper…just the headline,” he said. “The majority of people don’t read the inner pages of the newspaper anymore. If we’re talking about journalistic responsibility and nation building, we have to keep in mind that we no longer live in the 1950s. If we want to be responsible journalists, we should think about how people read these days.”
When asked if Duterte would be visiting the U.S. anytime soon, Andanar simply said “it will happen.”