PH keen on asserting independent foreign policy

MOSCOW, RUSSIA -- The Philippine government is keen on asserting its independent foreign policy as it seeks deeper partnerships with other countries while respecting its ties with traditional allies.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on Friday (Oct. 6) said the government will continue to pursue an independent policy while maintaining cooperation with Western allies.

We have a new world order and every time there is change there will always be resistance, but the Philippines will continue to walk down the path of the independent foreign policy, Andanar said in an interview with Russian global news channel RT on Friday.

We continue to respect our traditional Western allies, he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte is now in Moscow for a five-day official trip aimed to strengthen cooperation with the Russian government in terms of economic exchange and defense assets.

According to Andanar, the policy has paved the way for an improved relationship between the two countries since Duterte's first bilateral meeting with President Vladimir Putin in 2017.

The relationship is better than ever as you can see since Mayor Duterte became president of the Philippines in 2016 and as we started towards a path of an independent foreign policy the relationship of Russia and the Philippine government has improved a lot, he said.

During the interview, Andanar emphasized the increased investment from Russia which has reached USD1.3-billion (PHP66.3 billion). The two countries are also in talks for partnership in oil exploration, and trading of agricultural products such as seaweeds, and other goods and services.

When asked about the country's battle against ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), Andanar said the government's anti-terrorism efforts were very successful."

Very successful. President Rodrigo Roa-Duterte and the military, of course aided by our foreign friends, were able to successfully thwart ISIS in Marawi. Just a few weeks ago, the ISIS element who was connected to the first suicide bombing in Jolo, Sulu was arrested by the Philippine government, Andanar said.

Andanar expressed the Philippine government's gratitude for the military support sent by Russia in the fight against ISIS.

You can also say that during the time we had this crisis in Marawi, the Russian government has been very helpful in solving the problem of ISIS in our country. We are also talking about solving drug problems and transnational crimes, he said.

The PCOO Secretary also noted that the Philippines seeks to enhance cooperation with Russia in defeating the common enemy of terrorism and illegal drugs.

We continue to do this job. It's not easy. It is also not a problem only being faced by the Philippines but a common problem also faced by all countries including Russia and that's why the President is here to be able to solve this problem with Russia, the problem of terrorism, transnational crime and hard drugs, he added.

Andanar also discussed the territorial dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea, saying that the government has chosen to resolve the issue in a peaceful and diplomatic manner and that the entire relationship between the two countries is not based on that alone.

We also have other relationships. We have relationships based on people-to-people exchanges, business exchanges. We also have cultural exchange, trade with China. The Philippines has also ballooned. We are receiving more tourists from China, Andanar said.

Asked regarding the President's statement that Vladimir Putin is his favorite hero and if the Philippines' leader had many heroes, Andanar said The President admires the no-nonsense approach of President Vladimir Putin to governance, the same way he idolizes his mother who was a public school teacher who lived a very modest life."

Andanar also mentioned the respect that Duterte has for other leaders like Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Jordanian King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein, and other Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nation) leaders.

When asked whether he had a tough job as the Communications Secretary of Duterte, Andanar said: Not at all, adding that the job is not difficult.

The President enjoys a very, very high satisfaction approval rating around the vicinity of 80 to 85 percent. And any world leader would love to have that approval rating. So it's not difficult at all, he said. (PR)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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