Tell it to SunStar: On Duterte’s ‘independent foreign policy’

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s initiative on what he calls “independent foreign policy” has become his principal guide in the conduct of the state’s foreign relations. It has opened the way for an understanding and realization of the Philippines’ foreign policy as it broadens its diplomatic ties towards its neighboring countries. The Philippine President’s unconventional decision has led the nation to form significant ties to other growing superpowers in the region-–putting the country’s long bilateral relationship with the United States at stake.

Consequently, this decision and action of the President, as to what led to the shift in the country’s foreign policy has sparked controversies and questions that demand answers not just from Filipinos, but also from foreign nationals even up to this day—as Duterte’s presidency approaches its final years.

However, we fail to remember that it is the President’s job to design and establish the country’s foreign policy. Hence, whatever changes he chooses to apply are primarily understood as in the state’s interest. As his campaign slogan entails: “Change is Coming.” Change in the country’s foreign policy and relations happen especially when there is a change of state leaders who have disparate views, perceptions, and ideas from the previous ones.

From a Constructivist view, the state possesses various identities that shape their interest, and subsequently, their interactions with one another. Hence, whether a state relationship is good or conflicted, it stems from the states’ interaction and perception of each other. How we view, relate and know the world depends on the existing ideas and norms that are socially constructed. We hold meanings variedly and understand context depending on our thoughts, actions, and even our interactions with each other.

The theory Social Constructivism explains how actors come to act upon their subscribed identity and what causes them to act. State actors come to change their identity depending on the interactions that occur between them and “others.” A state then builds a relationship with states they positively interact with and come to an agreement with. On the one hand, when actors decide that it is time to shift or to simply stop their “dependence” on one country, it sparks change on the foreign policy of that state.

This is clearly evident in the President’s decision. The Philippines’ growing relation with its neighbor countries does not mean that it wants to start conflict and go against the US. However, we can never truly grasp what it entails unless we get to analyze the results of this “independent foreign policy.” All we could do now is wait. Nonetheless, what we could do as a nation is to demand answers and fight for our rights-–always. We can cooperate with the government, but also criticize it when the need comes. Let us pray that our collective actions bring the Philippines to where it is destined to be and what it wishes to become. (By Clarence Mae Basallo and Destinee Noor, AB International Studies, USJ-R)