'Philippines will maintain trade and economic ties with US'

Philippines presidential office urges public to wait for the final guidelines before interpreting Duterte's stance on US.

Philippines will maintain trade and economic ties with US, says Trade Minister
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony held in Beijing, China Reuters

Philippines Trade Minister Ramon Lopez said on Friday the country will maintain its trade and economic ties with the United States, after President Rodrigo Duterte made a series of comments hinting at pivoting away from the traditional ally.

"The president did not talk about separation," Lopez said in Beijing. "In terms of economic (ties), we are not stopping trade, investment with America. The president specifically mentioned his desire to strengthen further the ties with China and the Asean region which we have been trading with for centuries," he said.

According to Lopez, the Philippines was "being too much dependent on one side". "But we definitely won't stop the trade and investment activities with the West, specifically the US," he added.

The assistant secretary at the presidential communications office, Maria Banaag, requested the public on Friday to wait for the final guidelines before interpreting Duterte's announcement in Beijing regarding separation from the US.

"There is no rush for us to interpret the speech of the president as we have to wait for guidelines that would be coming from him, from the Department of Foreign Affairs as soon as they come back," Banaag said.

On Thursday, Duterte declared his "separation" from the US while he was in an official trip in Beijing for re-balancing his country's diplomacy towards China.

"I announce my separation from the United States. America does not control our lives," Duterte said.

He also told his Chinese hosts that he had "realigned (himself) in your ideological flow". "Maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world – China, Philippines and Russia," he added.

"It's the only way," Duterte said.

It is quite evident that Duterte's remarks will prompt new concern in the United States as it sees Manila as an important ally in its "rebalance" of resources to Asia in the face of a rising China.

The president's four-day trip to Beijing marked the confirmation of his tilt away from Washington and his inclination towards Beijing's sphere of influence and its deep pockets.