DFA chief: Philippines no ‘little brown brother’ of US

Jose Katigbak - The Philippine Star

WASHINGTON – The Philippines wants to keep and preserve its defense alliance with the United States but demands it be treated as a sovereign equal because “we cannot forever be the little brown brother of America,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said.

He said the US should not lecture the Philippines on human rights because even before the Americans colonized the country Filipinos already fully realized the sanctity of human rights, which were at the core of their struggle for independence.

“So it is in this context that I am asking our American friends to look into our aspirations. We cannot forever be the little brown brother of America. At some point in time we have to mature and develop, we have to grow and become a big brother of our own people,” he said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

US President Barack Obama scrapped a meeting with President Duterte in Laos recently on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit after the Filipino leader threatened to curse him if he raised human rights concerns in the brutal war on illegal drugs in the Philippines.

In his talk at the CSIS on Monday Yasay assured Americans the Philippines was not loosening its security ties with the US as he also underscored the country’s “fidelity” to strong alliance with the global superpower.

“In this effort, we will always view the United States as an esteemed and trusted ally with whom we share not just a common history and shared values, but a common destiny as well,” he pointed out.

With the US elections approaching,  Yasay said “the Philippines looks forward to the continuation of the United States’ ironclad commitment to the Philippines, and will continue to strengthen its relationship with the US.”

Yasay explained President Duterte was opposed to joint patrols with the US Navy in areas covered by the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Duterte early this week said the Philippines would stop patrolling the South China Sea with the US Navy to avoid upsetting China.

Joint patrols will continue and must continue within the Philippines’ 12-mile limit to preserve its territorial integrity, Yasay said.

He stressed the priorities and commitments of the Duterte administration should give the Philippines and the US an opportunity to build on enduring alliances.

“They open the gates for even wider cooperation with the US,” Yasay said.

“The challenges ahead will require nimble and nuanced diplomacy but I am confident that our alliance, based on mutual trust and respect, will continue to contribute to the peaceful and stable region,” he pointed out.

“The Philippines is committed to be a responsible partner in its relations in the international community,” he emphasized.

Meanwhile Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told a news briefing no official word has been received so far from the Philippines on ending the joint patrols and the proposed pullout of US forces from Mindanao for their safety. Pia Lee-Brago

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