President Duterte has consistently aimed to diversify security partners for The Philippines due to the fact that weapons purchased from the US or EU tend to come with political strings attached. By contrast, Duterte has praised the Chinese and Russian security markets for not “asking questions” when attempting to reach a positive deal for both sides. Duterte recently cancelled a deal to purchase helicopters from Canada after Canadian politicians began questioning whether it was proper to complete a sale to The Philippines.
Now Duterte has revealed that “in the next few days” The Philippine armed forces will receive 5,000 new firearms from a “friendly country”, but he has refused to state which one. Speaking in his home town of Davao, the Philippine President stated,
“We are getting firearms somewhere. I am not at liberty to divulge it. But in the next few days, we will have about 5,000 more, a shipment coming from a friendly country. We will survive and we will win these pocket wars. And we will be a great nation someday”.
In the 21st century, security independence is vital for all nations that seek to assert a more sovereign foreign policy and trading policy. Duterte has made it a priority to end dependence on US weapons, in order to facilitate an new international outlook for The Philippines that is truly independent and global in its outlook.
This is a central pillar of Duterte’s history making move towards a new 21st century of non-alignment which I described in the following way,
“Duterte has also developed historically strong ties with Russia and looks keen on cementing both a trading and security partnership with a Moscow that is eager to diversify its new partnerships throughout the ASEAN bloc.
Duterte has made it clear the era of a “colonial mentality” via-a-vis the United States is over. While the US Congress and state-funded American bodies disguised as so-called “NGOs” have taken a harsh line against Philippines because of this, Donald Trump appears to have a warm personal relationship with Duterte that continues to develop. Because of this, Philippines remains open to respectful trading relations with the United States, while clearly moving in a direction whereby China will become the most important trading partner for Philippines. Russia on the other hand, will play an enhanced role in modernising the armed forces of Philippines, thus reducing dependence on the US which has traditionally demanded a say in policy making among all states with which it maintains security agreements.
At the same time, Duterte has eased tensions with Malaysia, prioritising trading ties above long running territorial disputes, particularly in respect of Sabah.
Duterte’s model which stresses cooperation over mutually beneficial trading and security initiatives with both traditional partners and erstwhile rivals is fast becoming the model for all of South East Asia.
While both Indonesia and Thailand are quietly increasing their trade with China, Philippines under Duterte has taken a lead in articulating and implementing a model which stresses long-term cooperation with China.
Due to China’s status as the soon to be undisputed leading economy of the world and due to South East Asia’s regional proximity to the leading superpower, those nations which show a willingness to embrace the “win-win” Chinese model while abandoning the confrontational zero-sum model that the US has thrust upon much of South East Asia, will ultimately reap the rewards for doing so.
At the same time the Philippines models itself not as a Chinese “ally” but as a genuinely non-aligned state whose regional and global partnerships are designed to extract the greatest maxim of prosperity for Filipinos while minimising old conflicts. In this sense, the best trade that all nations can make is the swapping of territorial conflicts for agreements based on trade and cultural exchange. This model has been beneficial in minimising tensions throughout the world and while the US seeks to use the South China Sea as a means to sow discord among ASEAN members and between ASEAN and China, Duterte has proven that the opposite approach is the one which will result in mutually assured prosperity and increased diplomatic cooperation.
While Vietnam’s relations with the US have gone from a state of bloody war, to one of sceptical but increasingly close cooperation, China is nevertheless Vietnam’s number one trading partner. As a country whose relations with the US are far less historically intertwined than that between Manila and Washington, Duterte’s model could serve as a useful starting point for the necessary rapprochement between Vietnam and China. If Philippines can take a realistic “win-win” approach to China, Vietnam, in spite of a fractious history could eventually do the same, especially considering Russia’s historically good ties to Vietnam and its current superpower partnership with Beijing.
While Non-Aligned Movement members will never agree on everything, as this was never the goal of the bloc, there are clear generational leaders of the movement who typically attain their stature based on the ability to win new friends, increase meaningful sovereignty and prosperity, all without alienating former allies beyond that which is inevitable.
In this sense, Duterte has not only led a peaceful political and geo-political revolution for Philippines and more broadly in South East Asia, he has also become the leading light of the Non-Aligned Movement in an era where old global alliances are collapsing, thus renewing the importance of a movement whose inception represented a rejection of dogmatic relations with other states”.
In refraining from stating which country has supplied the new batch of weapon to the country, Duterte is once again demonstrating that he has a unique ability to leave all doors of opportunity open to his country, while only turning away from those which have already been slammed by dishonest partners. While the world guesses as to which country has supplied the weapons, Duterte has skillfully revealed that he has many more international friends than his opponents who remain stuck in a timewarp shaped by what Duterte accurately states as “the colonial mentality”.