Palace shrugs off US concern over 'climate of uncertainty'
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - October 24, 2016 - 9:23pm

MANILA, Philippines -- Malacañang officials are unfazed by the comments of United States Assistant State Secretary Daniel Russel and maintained that the Philippines would not be subservient to anyone but its own national interests.

Russel, who is in the country to seek clarification on Duterte’s statement that he is separating from the US, said the president’s pronouncements have caused anxiety among other countries and businesses and have created a “climate of uncertainty.” 

The US official also expressed concern over the spate of killings linked to the administration’s war on illegal drugs.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said there is nothing new about Russel’s statement.

“It’s not a new line. It’s something that the US and the Western alignment have referred to again and again. However, the president already has made...his position clear regarding that, that there’s no state-sanctioned policy regarding these alleged extrajudicial killings,” Abella said in a press briefing Monday.  

“The Philippines will not renege on its treaties that have been made with its established allies. However, like the president has said again and again, that he will continue in his independent foreign policy,” he added.

Despite airing concern, Russel said the US welcomed the thawing of relations between the Philippines and China.

"The Foreign secretary briefed me on the important visit by President Duterte to China that recently concluded and I reiterated that the United States welcomes a relaxation in relations between Beijing and Manila," Russel said in a televised press conference.

"We don't want countries to have to choose between the US and China," he also said.

Panelo: US to blame for 'confusion'

For Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, the US is to blame for the confusion over Duterte’s statements.

“They are confused because they refuse to understand what the president is saying. I think the president has been giving many statements in regard to this particular announcement he made,” Panelo said in an interview.

“In other words, the US had it coming. He has been warning about this particular thing but they did not listen,” he added.

Uncertainties have been hounding the relationship between the Philippines and the US since Duterte assumed the presidency.

Duterte has displayed animosity towards the US after American officials called him out for the alleged summary executions of drug suspects. The tough-talking president has accused the US of insulting him and meddling with the Philippines’ internal problems.

Early this month, Duterte said he is putting an end to the joint military exercises of Filipino and American forces, activities that are in line with a decades-old defense treaty signed by the two countries.  

During a business forum in Beijing last Thursday, Duterte announced that he is “separating” from the US in the areas of economy and security. He also said that he would be "dependent" on China because of the separation.

He later on clarified that he is not severing diplomatic ties from the US and that it is in the “best interest” of Filipinos to maintain the relationship.

Officials said the president was merely emphasizing the need to adopt a policy that is more independent form the US. They claimed that the Philippines is just opening itself to other countries, particularly those in the Southeast and East Asian region.

Duterte has said that he does not mind if US investors leave the country as he can always seek closer ties with China and Russia. Officials are confident though that Duterte’s pronouncement would not have an impact on Filipino migrant workers in the US and employees of business process outsourcing firms.

There have been concerns that the Philippines under Duterte would be subservient to China in exchange for assistance for government projects.

Panelo, however, denied this and maintained that the Philippines would only be subservient to its own interests.

“We are not dropping the US. We are not also subservient to China. We're just opening ourselves to trade relations, more trade relations. We are not subservient to anybody. We are only subservient to our own interests. it will always be based on our own interests,” the president’s chief legal adviser said.

“We are the masters of our own fate and the captain of our own destiny,” he added.

INDEPENDENT FOREIGN POLICY PHILIPPINES-US RELATIONS SALVADOR PANELO
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