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As Duterte prepares to visit China, Russia

PRESIDENT Duterte called on the nation’s military personnel to remain faithful to the Republic in an address before Philippine Marines at Fort Bonifacio last Tuesday. He was evidently concerned that his recent moves with regard to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), his caustic remarks on United States (US) President Obama, and his coming visits to China and Russia may be misinterpreted in some quarters and lead to unexpected military action.

The President hosted an unprecedented dinner Monday night in Malacañang for leaders of the National Democratic Front, political arm of the CPP whose military arm, the New People’s Army, has been in a state of rebellion for decades. Prominent among the guests in Malacañang were Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, who, only recently, had been detained in Cebu as top leaders of the CPP.

“Do not be offended,” the President told the troops. He said he invited the CPP leaders and the government is now meeting them in peace talks hosted by the Norwegian government in Oslo. As for China and Russia, the President said he hopes to build alliances with these two major world leaders, as part of his goal of developing a more independent foreign policy for the country.

In Washington, DC, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the US government has not received any official communication from the Philippine government that would indicate a shift in PH-US relations “Our cooperation with the Philippine government remains strong and unabated,” he said.

Secretary of Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay Jr., in a briefing in Malacañang, sought to reassure those who may be concerned by the President’s moves and statements, such as “I am about to cross the Rubicon between me and the US.” Secretary Yasay said he believes the President just wanted to emphasize the importance of his coming meetings with China’s President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

We realize that the recent moves and statements of President Duterte are a departure from those of previous leaders of our country. But we join in hoping that he succeeds in his twin goals of making peace with the Communist and other rebels in the country and drawing up a more independent foreign policy.

He has just returned from his state visit to Vietnam, one of our closest allies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. We wish him well as he prepares for his next state visits to China and Russia.