THE Philippine government is looking into strengthening diplomatic ties with Latin America, Africa, and Central Asia in the next three years, President Rodrigo R. Duterte said.
Speaking during the plenary session of the Valdai International Discussion club in Russia, Mr. Duterte also said his administration is eyeing more cooperation with countries in the Middle East.
“In the remaining three years of my term, we will likewise expand the horizon of Philippine diplomacy by deepening our engagement in Latin America, Africa, and Central Asia,” Mr. Duterte said in his speech, the official transcript of which was sent to reporters.
“It is also high time that the Philippines looked at the Middle East with fresh eyes going beyond oil and Overseas Filipino Workers,” he also said.
Mr. Duterte noted that at this point bilateral relations between the Philippines and Russia remained on the “margins,” after his 2017 visit was cut short due to the Marawi City siege.
The President reaffirmed the Philippines’ commitment to a robust and comprehensive partnership.
In the same speech, Mr. Duterte called on nations to allow others to govern their people without intervention, particularly in the Philippines which has been subjected to scrutiny over the the administration’s campaign against the illegal drug trade.
“The Philippines does not ask for special treatment nor favors from its partners. It does not seek exemption from the norms and principles that have kept the peace in our world for decades,” Mr. Duterte said.
“We want a strengthened rules-based order where countries, big or small, are treated the same. We want unimpeded freedom — guaranteed by our constitution — to exercise our right to govern ourselves as a people and as we saw it fit. And we want friends and partners to respect our independence to make sovereign decisions just as we respect theirs.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. made similar pronouncements in a Sept. 28 speech at the United Nations in New York, in which he cited that the international body should not be used as a platform against a tough approach to crime.
The Philippine government has long been criticized by other nations over its campaign against drugs among others. On July 11, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution that sought to probe the human rights situation in the Philippines.
A more recent development is an amendment approved by a Senate Committee in United States that will bar the entry in to the US of Philippine public officials involved in the detention of Senator Leila M. de Lima, which US Senator Dick Durbin said is “politically motivated.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan