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What is the Duterte Doctrine on foreign policy?

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - May 6, 2021 - 12:00am

We are quite alarmed when our president, the head of state and head of government, as well as commander-in-chief of all armed forces, including the military and the police, would impulsively, if recklessly declare on TV, that we cannot defend, and we will not defend our territories against China because of “utang na loob,” that China is a friend because of its Sinovac vaccine donation. My God, how different from President Manuel L Quezon who dared to say: I prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos than a government run like heaven by Americans.

The president, under our Constitution, is the chief architect of Philippine foreign policy. Whatever he says has serious and far-reaching implications. Thus, a  few well-meaning Filipinos, who are conscientiously worried about the West Philippine Sea, and the overall importance of our territorial integrity, are asking: what is really the policy directions of the Duterte administration relative to our exclusive economic zones and more urgently, about our territorial domains. Are we going to give away our territories in exchange of vaccines with merely fifty percent efficacy? There are many voices now but none provides rhyme and reasons. Whether it is the 1Sambayan group, led by the triumvirate of retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, his cousin retired Justice and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario, or the Liberal Party led by Vice President Leni Robredo, whose intermittent pronouncements are colored with partisan political motivations, or it is the UP ivory tower academicians, who keep on shooting from the hips, there is no clear policy directions that we can consider the right path to follow.

Talking of doctrines, we can glimpse at US history for precedents: First, the Monroe Doctrine. On December 2, 1823, President James Monroe warned the European powers, including the UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, France and Holland, that any attempt by any European power to invade any island or nation in the western hemisphere would be deemed by US as a hostile act against the USA and shall be met by force for force. Bold words. Second, the Hoover Doctrine. In September 1931, President Herbert Hoover warned Japan, which forcibly took over the south Manchurian Railway, that the USA will not recognize any territorial changes by force of arms. Then the Truman Doctrine. On March 12, 1947, President Harry Truman declared that the USA  would support free peoples who are resisting attempts to subjugate by armed minorities supported by external powers. And the Eisenhower Doctrine in March 1953. That was a categorical pledge to defend the Middle East from any country controlled by international communists led by the Soviet Union.

The Nixon Doctrine, declared on July 25, 1965, was different, as it signalled a gradual withdrawal of US troops, while it  encouraged friends and allies to marshall greater resources in their own defense, even as the US continued to commit to its treaty obligations. The unusual thing was that Nixon, a Republican acted like a dove, while President James Earl Carter, a Democrat, was more hawkish with the Carter Doctrine. Such a stance was driven by the discovery of Soviet troops in Cuba and the boiling tensions in the Horn of Africa. Carter declared: “Any attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf will be regarded as an assault against the interests of the US and such shall be repelled by means including military forces.” Lastly, the Reagan Doctrine announced on February 6, 1985. He declared: “We must not break faith with those who are risking lives on every continent from Afghanistan to Nicaragua, to defy Soviet-supported aggressions and secure rights which have been ours from birth.”

The Philippines does not have a clear policy direction, except some hodgepodge pronouncements, here and there without any unifying theme. President Duterte is the only President from Manuel Quezon to PNoy, who refused to befriend the US, and never made a state visit to America during his entire term so far. He brought the country to the other side of the China-Russia axis, from the right to the left. This policy shift emboldened China to make aggressive incursions in the West Philippine Sea, resulting in the open defiance of the International Arbitration decision in favor of the country and against China's discarded nine dash line. The Duterte Doctrine appears to be not to do anything while China is encroaching into our national territory and exclusive economic zones. What a doctrine, what a foreign policy. Is this what the Filipino people really want?

RODRIGO DUTERTE
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