Whether Trump or Biden wins, Palace sees 'no major changes' in relations with US

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Whether Trump or Biden wins, Palace sees 'no major changes' in relations with US
This combination of file pictures created on September 28, 2020 shows Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden(L) speaking in Tampa, Florida on September 15, 2020 and US President Donald Trump speaking during an event for black supporters at the Cobb Galleria Centre September 25, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia.
JIM WATSON, Brendan Smialowski / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — The world awaits with bated breath as the US chooses it next leader but Malacañang on Wednesday said it does not expect any significant changes in relations with the superpower regardless of who wins the presidency. 

"You see the state department ensures continuity as far as US foreign policy is concerned. So we don't expect any major changes on the bilateral relations between the Philippines and the United States," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in an interivew with CNN Philippines' "The Source." 

Accoridng to New York-headquartered think tank Council on Foreign Relations, US foreign policy is influenced by both the president and by US Congress.

It notes that Congress has the power to "'regulate commerce with foreign nations,' 'declare war,' 'raise and support armies,' 'provide and maintain a navy,' and 'make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.'"

The US president, meanwhile, has "the powers to make treaties and appoint ambassadors with the advice and consent of the Senate", and "the implicit authority to recognize foreign governments and conduct diplomacy with other countries generally."

Roque said Wednesday: "Of course, there's an issue of personal relations but I think, given time, the president can establish warm, personal relations with whoever wins this election."

US State Department under Trump

The US State Department, however, has become unrecognizable under US President Donald Trump. In 2018, over a year after Trump took office, US media outlets warned that key positions in the state department were still vacant. He also appointed a record proportion of his own financial donors to ambassadorships, who forced out career diplomats from America's embassies abroad

Peter Michael McKinely, former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in an opinion piece for The Atlantic, characterized the American state department as an institution on the brink of politicization. 

As it stands, it is unclear if such an agency, reportedly riddled with political appointees and a marked lack of career civil servants, can be relied on to ensure a smooth transition between administrations. 

'Challenging times' for Duterte if Biden wins, analyst says

President of think tank Stratbase ADR Institute Dindo Manhit on Tuesday night told OneNews' "The Chiefs" that former Vice President Joe Biden could be "more aggressive" in addressing the human rights situation in the Philippines. He said this, based on the Democratic challenger's campaign promise to revitalize national commitment "to advancing human rights and democracy around the world." 

Biden, however, both in his outlined foreign policy platform and in his public speaking engagements, has not mentioned the Philippines specifically. 

Envoy to the US Babe Romualdez, said a Biden administration might "bring out the issue" of human rights, but emphasized that the Philippines would continue to assert its sovereignty. 

"[T]he bottomline message that we continue to give here both to Republicans and Democrats is that we are a sovereign nation, we are a country that is a democratic country, just like the United States. We have a president that is duly elected, just like they have an election here now," Romualdez told ABS-CBN's "Headstart." 

'No rush to decide on VFA'

Meanwhile, the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement may be put on hold for another six months, according to Roque. 

The agreement, signed by the Philippines and the US in 1998, allows Filipino and American forces to hold joint trainings on Philippine soil. The Senate ratified the treaty in 1999 despite concerns that it would violate Philippine sovereignty.

President Rodrigo Duterte last January announced his plan to terminate the VFA after his political ally and former police chief Sen. Ronald dela Rosa’s US visa but ordered the suspension of the abrogation for six months. The suspension is set to expire in December.  

"That has the option of being further extended by another six months. So, my thinking is, perhaps the president will invoke the second six month time to finally abboragte the VFA," Roque said Wednesday. 

"Anyway, what i'm saying is there's no immediate rush for the president to decide because the notification we sent to the Americans gives them at least one year leeway before it is abrogated," he added. 

In terms of military support, Romualdez said members of Biden's foreign policy team have indicated that they would continue to recognize the Philippines' arbitral win against China over the South China Sea.  

As of this writing, polls are closing across the United States and results are slowly trickling in. A final forecast from ABC News' FiveThirtyEight places Biden's chances of winning at 89% and Trump's at 10%. 

Both candidates are racing to capture 270 electoral votes, or more, of the total 538.



As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 23, 2020 - 2:54pm

A thread of major developments in the bilateral relations between the Philippines and the United States from April to December 2020. (Photo by AFP/Mark Cristino)

November 23, 2020 - 2:54pm

US national security adviser Robert O'Brien affirms Washington's commitment to the Philippines in protecting its sovereign rights, offshore resources and rights consistent with international law.

Citing Washington's realignment of its position on the South China Sea with the 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidate Beijing's expansive claims, O'Brien stresses that resources in the area belong to the Filipino people.

"They don’t belong to some other country that just because might, they may be big, and they may be bigger than the Philippines, they can come take away and convert the resources of the Philippine people," O'Brien says.

October 7, 2020 - 1:03pm

The US Embassy in the Philippines says the US government has turned over 150 laptop computers, printers, projectors and 80 sets of learning materials to the Department of Education through the United States Agency for International Development. 

"This assistance is part of USAID’s Opportunity 2.0, a five-year, P1.9-billion ($37.5 million) project that works with DepEd, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and local governments to support their ongoing programs to provide relevant education, employability skills, and work experience to out-of-school youth," the US Embassy says in a statement.

August 19, 2020 - 8:56am

The US government launches a new program to provide second-chance opportunities to at least 180,000 out-of-school youth in the Philippines.

Under the five-year "Opportunity 2.0" project, which is worth P1.9 billion, the USAID will partner with DepEd and TESDA to augment their ongoing programs that provide relevant education, employability skills and work experience.

"Through this new partnership, we can leverage a range of resources to maximize the potential of the Filipino youth, particularly those who are out-of-school or unemployed. With the right knowledge, attitudes, and skills, they will play a pivotal role in this great country’s growth and success over the long-term," US Ambassador Sung Kim says.

August 7, 2020 - 8:05am

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to discuss the recent change in US policy on maritime claims in the South China Sea, the US Department of State says.

The two foreign ministers also discussed US support for Southeast Asian coastal states upholding their sovereign rights and interests consistent with international law, as well as opportunities for further maritime cooperation between the two countries.

"The two secretaries also discussed the strong economic, security, and people-to-people ties that bind our two countries," the statement read.

July 27, 2020 - 8:56am

The US Army and Marine Corps service members, in partnership with the Philippine Air Force, Army and Coast Guard, deliver an additional P11.4 million ($236,000) worth of personal protective equipment and medical supplies to hospitals in 11 cities in the Philippines.

The latest donation brings the total assistance of the US government to the Philippines' efforts against COVID-19 to P989 million (more than $20 million).

"This latest delivery of U.S. government assistance for Filipino frontliners in the battle against COVID-19 is a testament to our ongoing commitment to help the Philippines defeat the pandemic," US Ambassador Sung Kim says.

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