MALACAÑANG ruled out Tuesday, July 16, the possibility that the Philippines would suffer, in case President Rodrigo Duterte formally breaks ties with Iceland, which initiated a resolution asking the United Nations (UN) to probe the deaths of thousands of people killed in his controversial campaign against illegal drugs.
Speaking to Palace reporters, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo expressed confidence that the potential cutting of diplomatic relations with Iceland would only bring minimal impact on the Philippine economy.
"Well, he (Duterte) mentioned last night that he is seriously considering cutting diplomatic ties with Iceland. There are only about 2,000 Filipinos there, and as far as we know, there are no trade relations between these two countries, except maybe on fish," the Palace official said.
"We've been having trade relations with our countries. So I don't think cutting our relationship with one country would affect us," he added.
Duterte was prompted to "seriously" consider the possible severing of relations with Iceland, after its resolution was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Iceland was established on February 24, 1999.
The two countries have also been steady partners in the areas of maritime, mining, renewable energy, medical services, fisheries, and geothermal
Panelo was optimistic that despite the impending end of ties between the Philippines and Iceland, the two nation's existing deals would not be terminated, as it would benefit both of them.
He was also confident that Filipino migrant workers in Iceland would not lose their jobs.
"Assuming that there is or there are [existing deals], for as long as it [is or are] beneficial to us, then we will proceed with it. And I'm sure, the agreement would be beneficial to both countries because no country will enter into agreement that is not also beneficial to it," he said.
"Even if you cut ties with a particular country, if it benefits that country to be entering into a commercial agreement with one [that] cuts it ties, I don't think [it] will sever that relationship. It's only the diplomatic relations," he added.
Panelo explained that Duterte made the pronouncement, as the latter was dismayed that Iceland was attacking the Philippines based on "false information and unverified facts and figures."
"Iceland is so naive to accept everything that it hears or receives... And to our minds, it assaults the sovereignty of this country," he said.
"Because you know, as we were discussing with the President, I think sovereign states should give due respect to each other and if there is any concern on violation of human rights on the part of others vis-a-vis others, they should at least give formal communication to those subject of their concern, as a matter of courtesy and civility so that we can properly respond," he added.
The adoption of Iceland-resolution mandates UN rights chief Micelle Backelet to present a comprehensive report on Duterte's drug war during the UNHRC's 44th session by June 2020.
Panelo said Duterte is expected to make official announcement on the cutting of ties between the Philippines and Iceland.
"As I said, the words of the President is, 'I'm seriously cutting ties with Iceland.' In other words, he's mulling over it. So let's see how it develops," he said. (SunStar Philippines)