‘Philippines may terminate international agreements if…’

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is ready to terminate international agreements when the national interest is no longer served and will reject aid or opportunities provided under a “carrot and stick” policy, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said.

Yasay made the statement over the weekend after the Philippines had officially informed the United States that it would no longer participate in joint patrols in the South China Sea, following orders from President Duterte.

Duterte has said he wanted US military forces out of Mindanao, blaming the Americans for inflaming local Muslim insurgencies in the region.

He has threatened to scrap the 2014 agreement granting American troops increased access to Philippine bases.

While the Philippines will respect and keep its mutual defense treaty with the US, Yasay said this should not cause the country to be dependent on Washington.

“Even as we will respect and keep our mutual defense treaty with the US as our safeguard against any risk or menace from external aggression that undermine our territorial integrity, sovereignty rights and maritime entitlements under international law, this important alliance cannot be carried out to perpetuate our dependency thereby making us vulnerable to subservience,” Yasay said in a statement on Saturday.

“We will also not hesitate to terminate our international agreements, when the national interest will no longer be served,” he declared.

Yasay added that military alliances with other nations should enable the Philippines to be self-reliant in adequately dealing with the internal and external threats to its security.

Despite Duterte’s declaration that he would seek a review of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US, Yasay said on Monday said there is no need to do so.

Yasay noted the Supreme Court had upheld the legality of EDCA, which grants American troops access to Philippine military bases.

Last week, Duterte also dared the US and the European Union to pull out their assistance to the Philippines, saying the country can survive without their help.

Duterte said the Philippines would not sacrifice dignity as a nation for aid from other countries who do not understand the seriousness of the drug problem.

“We will never allow any bullying to make us submit to the interest of any other nation. Henceforth, we will reject any aid, assistance or opportunities for joint cooperation from anyone under onerous conditions or offered pursuant to a ‘carrot and stick’ policy,” Yasay said.

Yasay explained that in building on the economic pillar of the country’s foreign relations, “we must recognize that all nations – whether weak or strong, small or big – will be interdependent with each other.”

The distribution of capital and resources, products and markets around the globe will always have a compelling effect upon such interdependence, Yasay said.

This is how every country will make their economy dynamic, robust and sustainable for the welfare of its people, he said.

“Our relationships toward this convergence of interests must be balanced and fair to be mutually beneficial to all concerned,” Yasay said.

Yasay pointed out the overriding consideration of the Duterte administration’s foreign policy shift is to protect and promote the national interest by promoting friendship with all nations.

Duterte has had an uneasy relationship with the United States since he won a presidential election in May. He says he is charting a foreign policy not dependent on the US, and has taken steps to revive ties with China, which had been strained over longstanding territorial conflicts in the South China Sea.

Yasay on Thursday said the US has “failed” the Philippines, prompting the President to break the country’s “shackling dependency” on its former colonizer and liberate Filipinos from submission to American demands and interests.

“Breaking away from the shackling dependency of the Philippines to effectively address both internal and external security threats has become imperative in putting an end to our nation’s subservience to United States’ interests,” Yasay said.

He said the “carrot and stick” policy of the US towards the Philippines has been effectively used through the years since the country’s independence to force Filipinos into submission to American demands and interests.

“This is what PRRD (Duterte) is now trying to liberate us from,” he said.

This has also compelled Duterte to realign Philippine foreign policy towards an independent track in pursuing the overriding national interest and in upholding and protecting sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Duterte’s urgent message in realigning independent foreign policy brings to bear the state of Philippine relations with the US and traditional partners, Yasay said.

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