Ex-DFA chief warns about ‘newfound friend’ China

Paterno Esmaquel II
Ex-DFA chief warns about ‘newfound friend’ China

Toto Lozano

Ex-DFA chief Albert del Rosario asks, 'Where is the wisdom if we are appearing to place all our bets on the integrity and credibility of our northern neighbor?'

MANILA, Philippines – Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario warned the Philippines about its “newfound friend” as President Rodrigo Duterte makes a state visit to China this week.

Del Rosario on Tuesday evening, October 18, did not name any country, but made an apparent reference to China, which he described as the Philippines’ “northern neighbor.”

“With the possibility of bridges being burned, our 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,” Del Rosario said as he received the Asia CEO Lifetime Contributor Award at the Manila Marriott Hotel. 

He then stressed the need for a “principled and independent foreign policy” that, among other things, considers the national interest.

Part of this, he said, is to show “that ‘right is might’ and international law is the great equalizer among states” – a reference to the historic case filed by Manila against Beijing. The Philippines won this case, which began under Del Rosario’s watch as the country’s top diplomat. (READ: ‘Del Rosario diplomacy’ hailed amid PH victory

Del Rosario issued this statement after Duterte threatened to cut ties with the US as he aims for stronger alliances with China and Russia.

Duterte is visiting China from October 18 to 21 to boost trade with the Asian giant, even as China remains locked in a dispute with the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). (READ: Duterte faces Asia’s Goliath: What PH stands to gain or lose in China)

Del Rosario: Don’t burn bridges

In an apparent reference to Duterte’s statements against the US, Del Rosario also cautioned against a foreign policy “driven by a possible bias” or “advanced as a ‘zero-sum game.'” (READ: Duterte admin ‘independent’ from US, ‘bullied’ by China?)

Del Rosario said: “This 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.”

He also said it is wrong to “threaten to burn bridges” with close and long-time allies. He said ties with old partners, after all, “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,” Del Rosario said.

He also said the Philippines should not think that it “can exist in isolation amid an increasingly complex yet interdependent world.”

Del Rosario added: “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?” – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.