We may have begun to see the new foreign policy of the country at work during the just-concluded Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Manila with the foreign ministers of the United States, Russia, China, and other partner nations.
At the closing ceremony last Monday, President Duterte called for the swift conclusion of an agreement to set up a free trade bloc that groups together the ten ASEAN nations with China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. China has long been pushing for this Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The ASEAN nations, in their final joint communiqué, agreed to go along with China’s call for non-confrontational settlement of disputes in the South China Sea.
The US also played a prominent role in the Manila meetings. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to seek their help in restraining North Korea, which threatens the US with a nuclear attack. Speaking later at the US Embassy, Secretary Tillerson announced the US readiness to help the Philippines in its fight against the Islamic State-supported Maute rebellion in Marawi City. It will continue to provide support for the Armed Forces of the Philippines through grant assistance and expedited sales of arms and ammunition.
On the same day, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano announced that the Philippines and Russia have agreed to fast-track negotiations for bilateral agreements on military technical cooperation, illegal narcotics, and law enforcement.
We are today dealing closely and with greater cooperation with the US, China, Russia – the world’s three biggest countries which have often been at odds with one another. A year ago, we would have kept to our close ties with the US and steered clear of Russia and China.
Today we are working closely with them as well as with other nations as part of our country’s new outgoing perspective, a more open outlook, a more independent foreign policy.