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'PHL to maintain ties with West, pursue regional integration'

BEIJING - The Philippines will pursue regional economic integration following President Rodrigo Duterte's announcement that the country will split with the United States in military and economics.

This, however, did not mean that the country will break off ties with the West, according to the country's top economic managers.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and National Economic and Development Agency (NEDA) Director General Ernesto Pernia issued a statement on Thursday saying that Duterte’s speech at the Philippines-China Trade and Investment Forum at the Great Hall of the People was a move toward Asian economic integration.

"The Cabinet will move strongly and swiftly towards regional economic integration. This is why the president prioritized foreign trips to ASEAN and Asia," they said.

"As a result, The Philippines has now opened its opportunities for trade and investment to a market of 1.8 billion people across the region. ASEAN economies have expressed interest in integration. China has committed to open its capital markets.”

They backpedaled on Duterte’s announcement that he would separate from US and depend on China. 

“We will maintain relations with the West but we desire stronger integration with our neighbors. We share the culture and a better understanding with our region," they said.

"This regional integration is similar to what has been done in the EU [European Union] and NAFTA in North America and Mercosur in South America. The Philippines is integrating with ASEAN China, Japan and South Korea.”

In a speech here before government and business leaders, Duterte said he would be relying on China after declaring a split from the US.

"I announce my separation from the United States both in the military but economics also. So please you have another problem of economics in my country," Duterte said.

"I have separated from them so I will be dependent on you for a long time but don't worry we will also help," he added. —JST, GMA News