US vs China? Duterte says Philippines interest comes first
“The President’s stand is clear: he will put the national interest of the Philippines, in view of a clash between the two superpowers,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said at a briefing yesterday.
King Rodriguez/Presidential Photo
US vs China? Duterte says Philippines interest comes first
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - August 28, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — In case tensions between the United States and China escalate into open conflict, President Duterte will always put forward the interest of the Philippines, Malacañang said.

“The President’s stand is clear: he will put the national interest of the Philippines, in view of a clash between the two superpowers,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said at a briefing yesterday.

Roque reiterated the President’s policy of “being friends to all, and enemy to no one,” when asked about the country’s position amid the heated exchanges between the two countries.

The Palace official was mum when asked if it would side with the US after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed to act against Beijing until it discontinues its coercive behavior in the South China Sea. Pompeo has also declared the US commitment to continue to stand with ally-partners in resisting China’s destabilizing activities.

“You know, the move to enter the territory of another country is the decision of that sovereign nation. So we will respect their decision, and there is no need for us to comment,” Roque said in Filipino.

Almost immediately after assuming office, President Duterte announced an “independent” foreign policy, which critics dismissed as mere appeasement of China and Russia.

In February, Duterte also moved to revoke the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the US, citing what he called its lopsided provisions. But last June, he suspended his order to terminate the agreement.

Experts said terminating the VFA would undermine the ability of the US to provide assistance to the Philippines in dealing with challenges including terrorism and conflict in the South China Sea.

Last month, Pompeo also urged allies to rise up against a “new tyranny” from China.

“China is increasingly authoritarian at home, and more aggressive in its hostility to freedom everywhere else,” he said.

The South China Morning Post cited the dispute between Beijing and Washington over the South China Sea as possible flashpoint for a military conflict – a concern highlighted by news that China had launched two missiles including an “aircraft carrier killer.”

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