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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Seares: Zero-sum game: is this what we are playing?

“OUR foreign policy is driven by democratic ties. It must principled, it must be independent, and it must follow the rule of law.”
--Albert del Rosario, former DFA secretary

WHEN former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said the government’s foreign affairs strategy “has driven off track a bit,” he was being polite. Calling it “unfortunate” is a mild remark, with claws sheathed.

If it were someone else with coarse language and short-fused temper, say, the President, he would’ve said, are we gaddam f**king stupid?

Del Rosario’s point, aired Sept. 28 at an economic forum, is clear: the country’s perceived pivot to China at the cost of losing the support of the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) “won’t work.”

The ADR Institute president suggests to consider repercussions and common sense: How much will it hurt the country? How can it be spared from the expected backlash?

US and EU have been promoting respect for human rights: it’s an “international norm,” he said, and condition for favors from donor countries.

Apparently, the shift in our ties, from US and EU to Russia and China, began when Duterte resented “meddling” by the old partners in his war on illegal drugs. After cursing leaders of US, UN and EU, Duterte intensified moves to distance the country from old allies and flirt with their rival bloc.

Cost of shift

It’s a major policy shift that must be done with caution. And del Rosario’s is one sober and rational voice amid the din.

Consider the cost: (1) Loss of economic benefits from US and EU in direct grant and preferential access to trade. (2) Death of common sense in keeping old friends even as we make new ones.

Foreign policy, del Rosario clearly suggests, must not rise out of pique, anger or hostility.

[paseares@gmail.com]
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