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Closer ties with China, Russia, and the US

JOINT military exercises with the United States were scaled down last year following President Duterte’s call for a more independent foreign policy for the Philippines. The President said the Philippines would develop closer ties with China and Russia, two nations which have long been perceived as rivals of the US-led West in international affairs.

Our relations with China have become considerably closer in the first year of the Duterte administration. While our two nations remain firm in our respective – sometimes conflicting – claims to parts of the South China Sea, we have succeeded in reaching an understanding that allows our fishermen to carry on in their traditional fishing grounds.

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have drawn up an agreement for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, providing, among other items, that there will be no further reclamation of islets and other maritime features in the area.

Our bilateral ties have grown considerably closer. Only last Thursday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Año received from Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua a second batch of assault rifles donated by the Chinese government.

At the same time, General Año reported on his recent visit to Hawaii where he met with Admiral Harry Harris, chief of the US Pacific Command, and they agreed on increased joint Philippine-American military exercises in 2018, after they had been scaled down last year. President Duterte, the general said at a press conference, wants more exercises with the US which he considers as still the Philippines’ top ally.

When the fighting in Marawi broke out in May, the US swiftly came to help despite the harsh words exchanged by President Duterte and then US President Barack Obama over the Philippines’ anti-drugs campaign. US Special Forces provided technical and intelligence support that proved valuable in the fight against the Islamic State-inspired Maute rebels.

Our efforts for a more independent foreign policy continue. With our new cordial relations with China, our efforts to reach out to Russia, and the reinvigoration of our historic ties with the US, we hope to help play a stabilizing role in our part of the world which is now beset with many emerging problems.