“I AM a President of a sovereign state, and we have long ceased to be a colony. I do not have any master except the Filipino people.”
This is the important message which President Rodrigo Duterte wanted to put across but was overlooked because the attention of the international media was more on the President’s alleged “cursing” of United States President Barack Obama.
Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-LABAN) Policy Studies Group Head and Membership Committee National Capitol Region Chairman Jose Antonio Goitia said Duterte’s demand for the pull out of U.S. troops from Mindanao is proof that his criticism of the Americans is beyond the human rights violations issues raised by the U.S. State Department and Obama. It gives a clearer picture of President Duterte’s real intention: to step out of the shadow of the U.S. and pursue an independent foreign policy.
Goitia stated that the history of US-Philippine relations is fraught with violence and unequal treatment of the Filipinos in their own soil as many Filipinos, especially Moros, were killed during the U.S. occupation of the Philippine Islands in the first half of the 20th century.
“Even when the U.S. granted the Philippines its independence in 1946, the U.S. government had not acknowledged and made reparations to the casualties of their colonial rule,” said Goitia who is also the PDP Laban San Juan City Council president.
“President Duterte points to this long history of U.S. colonialism and violence in Philippine soils, particularly in Mindanao, as the root cause of armed conflict being waged by Moro secessionist rebels, a conflict which President sought to end. He clearly stated that as long as the U.S. forces are in Mindanao, peace will be elusive.”
He said it is not only the peace in Mindanao that is at stake in the recent pronouncements of Duterte as local and foreign analysts of Philippine politics and international relations see the recent moves of the President as a way of distancing the Philippines from the U.S., ending the long-held perception of the Philippines as Washington DC’s outpost in the Southeast Asian region.
“This reorientation to have an independent foreign policy comes at a crucial time where the economic and political rivalry between U.S. and China, along with Russia, is intensifying. With the shifting global realities, it is more prudent for Duterte not to put his country in the line of fire. U.S. forces’ presence in the Philippines may be perceived by China as a threat,” Goitia said.
“Contrary to what the critics are saying, pursuing an independent foreign policy and the call to pull out troops from Mindanao are not only part of the President’s anti-Obama stance, but more importantly, it is Duterte’s way of protecting the national interest and security.”
“In the face of the West Philippine Sea territorial dispute, the least the Philippine government can do at this point is not to project itself as a threat to China,” Goitia added.
“What at stake are not only the natural resources of the contested areas in the West Philippine Sea, but also the livelihood and safety of the overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China. This is picture that the local and foreign media has been missing all along.”