Duterte vs US: PH to lose 3rd largest trading partner

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, October 20, announced his "separation" from the US in economic aside from military terms.  

This means the Philippines stands to lose its 3rd largest trading partner, based on data from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Trade between Manila and Washington amounts to $16.491 billion favoring the Philippines, according to a fact sheet provided by the DFA in September.

The US also continues to host 5,997,330 Filipinos as Duterte vows to cut military and economic ties with Washington. 

The President's recent statements have fueled fears for the plight of the country's economy. Duterte on Thursday said in China, "I announce my separation from the United States, both in military but economics also."

Duterte made this announcement as he seeks stronger economic and military ties with China, the rival of the US in the Asia Pacific. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: US Ambassador Goldberg on PH pivot to China)

Officials explain remarks

Duterte's economic planners, however, sought to clarify the President's statement. 

"We will maintain relations with the West but we desire stronger integration with our neighbors," Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said in a statement after Duterte's speech.

A US official, for his part, told Agence France-Presse: "We still have not received any requests through official channels to alter our assistance to or cooperation with the Philippines."

Former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario earlier called on the Duterte administration to count the economic cost of the country's shift in foreign policy.

"In foreign affairs, you try to get as many friends as possible. You don't get one friend at the expense of another friend," he explained. "Playing a zero-sum game is illogical and we should get away from this."

Victor Andres Manhit, president of the Albert del Rosario Institute for Strategic and International Studies, also previously said that Duterte's statements on foreign policy could affect the country's economy, as well as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). (READ: Why Duterte needs to act like a diplomat)

Referring to the President, Manhit said, "You have to realize that you cannot look at your world domestically only, because how people see us internationally might affect the day to day lives of our OFWs, might affect the investments, the jobs, of our people."

Manhit added that the government can only bring "greater foreign investment" into the Philippines "if we are respected in the world." (READ: Duterte's tough talk and what it could mean for US, EU investments– Rappler.com 

Paterno R. 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.

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