Philippines moving away from US towards China: Envoy

January 2, 2017 10:30 pm

The Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony in Beijing on October 20, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The Philippines’s incoming ambassador to says his country plans to move away from its long-time ally, the United States, towards Beijing.
Jose Chito Sta. Romana said on Monday that the decision was a “strategic shift” in the Philippines’ foreign policy and a step towards normalizing relations with China.
“We were one-sidedly imbalanced in favor of the US,” he said. “We are not abandoning our alliance with the US … We are basically trying to normalize our relations with China.”
The incoming ambassador also said Manila was open to working with Beijing to access resources in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
“The Chinese viewed the Philippines as a geopolitical pawn or Trojan horse of the US. Now they look at us as a friendly neighbor,” Romana noted.
China claims sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea, which is also partially contested by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. A UN-backed tribunal ruled in July that China’s claims had no legal basis.
Relations between Washington and Manila have been strained since Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte took the helm in June 2016.
The US, the Philippines’ colonial ruler until 1946, currently serves as the South Asian country’s main military ally but has also been highly critical of Duterte’s severe crackdown on crime, specially drug trade, which has killed some 3,000 people over the past months.
The Filipino president has dismissed the criticism as an attempt to interfere in his country’s internal affairs and has threatened to cut ties with the US.
In September 2016, Duterte rejected a meeting scheduled with former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and even threatened to leave the UN after the world body criticized his “war on drugs.”
Civil rights campaigners have criticized Philippine police operations amid concerns that some of the dead suspects may have been summarily executed by law enforcement officers.
Duterte has also used offensive language to describe world politicians who make comments he does not like on numerous occasions.
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