President Rodrigo Duterte's foreign policy is "difficult to comprehend" because it seems to favor China, which has violated the country's rights in the South China Sea, and is seen as casting aside the United States, a longtime ally of the Philippines, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said.
In a speech before the Asia CEO Awards Tuesday night where he was given a lifetime achievement award, Del Rosario took a swipe at Duterte's declared foreign policy, describing it as having gone "off-track."
"There appeared to be a lack of clarity from the incumbent administration on what a principled and independent foreign policy should be," Del Rosario said in a rare public criticism of Duterte.
Duterte appeared to be cozying up to China while launching a series of tirades against its treaty ally, the US, threatening to sever ties with them and end joint military training for its criticisms of his bloody illegal drugs crackdown.
Angered by the US comments, the tough-talking Duterte called US President Barack Obama a "son of bitch" and told him to "go to hell."
He also lashed back at the United Nations and the European Union after they raised concerns on human rights violations committed during police operations against drug suspects and the widespread vigilante killings across the country, which were encouraged by Duterte's pronouncements that he wants to kill those involved in illegal drugs.
While praising China, Duterte declared that he will chart a foreign policy independent of the US.
However, Del Rosario said, "[A] principled and independent foreign policy is not about appearing to be driven by a possible bias or when it is advanced as a ‘zero-sum game’ so that a close alliance, or valued partners and friends are suddenly cast aside to favor another state."
Without mentioning China, Del Rosario said, "[T]his is most difficult to comprehend since the perceived favored state has clearly and consistently exhibited, and continues to demonstrate assertive behavior while blatantly violating international law to the grave disadvantage of the Philippines and to the detriment of our national interest."
Del Rosario led the filing of the case against China before an international tribunal over its massive South China Sea claim that impinges on Philippine sovereignty. The court favored the Philippines and declared China’s vast and historic claim over the resource-rich waters as invalid.
“Our foreign policy is not principled and independent when we threaten to burn bridges with our close friends who have historically stood with us during difficult times,” he said.
Del Rosario said he is not against seeking new ties with other countries as “relations with old partners can co-exist with any new ones we may seek.”
"For that matter, the friends we distance ourselves from today may be the very ones from whom we may need help tomorrow," he said.
With the possibility of bridges being burned, Del Rosario warned that Philippine foreign policy "is as well not principled and independent when we may not know what the end game would be if our newfound friend turns out to be other than expected."
Duterte is currently on a four-day state visit to China, in a trip aimed at repairing ties with Beijing that has considerably deteriorated under Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, when the Philippines brought it to international arbitration over the territorial issues in January 2013.
China refused to honor the tribunal’s ruling and maintained its claim over nearly the entire South China Sea is indisputable and anchored on history.
Del Rosario said Philippine foreign policy is not principled and independent "if we believe that the Philippines can exist in isolation amid an increasingly complex yet interdependent world."
"Where is the wisdom if we are appearing to place all our bets on the integrity and credibility of our northern neighbor – especially one, in particular, that vehemently rejects adhering to the rule of law?" he asked. —KBK, GMA News