PH not veering away from traditional friendship with US – Yasay

The Philippines is not turning away from its traditional friendship with the United States despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent statement that he is about to cross the Rubicon with the US, a top foreign affairs official said on Tuesday.

”I don’t think, personally, that he meant with the context of veering away from our commitments with US particularly with our agreements and treaties that we had with the US,” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Perfecto Yasay, in a press briefing in Malacanang, said.

Last Monday, President Duterte said he is about to cross the Rubicon between him and the US while seeking open alliances with China and Russia for the next six years.

”Maybe again, he was saying in a matter to dramatize what he feels, are the areas that would need further strengthening in so far as the relationship with the US is concern,” Yasay explained.

Recently, the US has expressed deep concerns about reports of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations amid the Duterte administration’s intensified war against illegal drugs.

”I would like to emphasize reading and listening to what the President has been saying in this regard is simply, he wants to undertake foreign policy where we would not overlook the part of the international community, that the constitution mandates, that we should carry on amity among all nations, including China, in this regard that it is our neighbor,” Yasay said.

Yasay said the relationship between the Philippines and China had cooled off under the previous administration due to the Philippines’ arbitration case it filed and won against China’s nine-dash line claim of the South China Sea.

”This is something that we would like to further strengthen. We have dispute with China in so far with South China Sea is concern but this is not going to prevent us from pursuing other aspects of our relationship,” Yasay said.

”I understand it is within the context of the fact that the President is just simply emphasizing that in his administration, he wants to make sure the relationship mandated by the Constitution in so far as carrying out the independent foreign policy and at the same pursuing amity with other nations are complied with,” he explained.

The DFA official clarified that it was not him who brought out the West Philippine Sea issue.

”I did not go there to discuss South China Sea. It was them that asked clarification on how we go forward in so far as the South China Sea issue concern,” Yasay said.

Yasay told the US officials “it is not our national interest to pursue multilateral negotiations with other countries which are not involved in as far as the dispute with China is concern.”

”It will complicate issue. This dispute must be settled amicably in the context of arbitral tribunal decision that is, it should involve only Philippines and China in so far as the bilateral relationship is concern,” he added.

Yasay has just arrived from US where he attended the United Nation General Assembly in New York and met with some US officials, including the national security adviser of President Barack Obama, in Washington DC.

”I gave the explanation and talked about their concerns with respect to certain issues raised about the Philippines particularly violations on human rights,” Yasay said.

”I emphasized the good chair (of foreign relations committee) that they have to trust the institutions that we have in the Philippines. As a result of this discussion, we have agreed that we will move forward to strengthen this relationship in the future,” he added.

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