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Dutertes hugot for his evolving foreign policy

By Teddy Casio

In the face of bewilderment over Pres. Rodrigo Dutertes independent foreign policy, it is proper to
ask, exactly what constitutes such a policy? What should underlie the Presidents curse-laced
pronouncements against the United States and European Union and his friendly overtures to China
and Russia?
The starting point for Dutertes foreign policy should be the Philippine Constitution, which he and
every other president before him have sworn to uphold and protect. While Duterte is given much
leeway in determining foreign policy, he being the countrys top official and diplomat, it is the
Constitution that provides the basic parameters and direction for the exercise of such power.
So what does the Constitution mandate, in terms of foreign policy? More importantly, is Duterte
following it?
The national territory
Article I defines our national territory to include all the islands, waters and the airspace within the
Philippine archipelago, including the seabed, subsoil, submarine areas and areas under our control
and jurisdiction. This necessarily includes areas covered by our 12-mile territorial sea, our 200-mile
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and 350-mile Extended Continental Shelf, over which we have
sovereignty and jurisdiction as provided for under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the
The baseline from which to determine our territory and its maritime areas is contained in our
Baselines Law (R.A. 9522). Under this law, Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) and the
Kalayaan Island Group (Spratly Islands), while being outside the countrys baselines, are still part
of the national territory as Regime of Islands provided for in UNCLOS.
Pres. Duterte and all Filipinos are sworn to secure and defend this territory. Thus, he is
constitutionally barred from bargaining off our maritime and territorial claims to China or any
competing claimant country in the West Philippine Sea.
A peaceful and independent foreign policy
The general principles of our diplomacy are spelled out in Article II, or the Declaration of Principles
and State Policies.
Article II, Sec. 2 states that the Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy,
adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and
adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation, and amity with all nations.

This provision mandates Pres. Duterte to renounce wars of aggression like those launched by the
US and the EU in the Middle East, Asia or any part of the globe. The Philippines should not be a
party to, or a launching pad or training site for, such military actions. Furthermore, we should strive
to achieve good, peaceful, mutually beneficial relations with all nations. Dutertes decision to end
US military exercises and patrols in the country as well as his plan to abrogate the Enhanced
Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) is certainly within this mandate. In the same vein,
Duterte should insist on both the US and China to demilitarize the South China Sea conflict.
Article II, Sec. 7 states: The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with
other states the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national
interest, and the right to self-determination.
It is this provision that Duterte invokes when he says the Philippines is no vassal state of the US.
Our relations with China, Russia, the ASEAN bloc or any other country should not be dictated by
the US, China or any other foreign interest but by the need to assert our sovereignty, protect our
territory, promote the national interest and uphold our right to self-determination.
Article II, Sec. 8 states that the Philippines adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear
weapons in its territory. The US has defied this prohibition on nuclear weapons by preventing
Philippine authorities from inspecting their ships and aircraft and by neither confirming nor denying
the presence of such weapons. This is another argument for abrogating the RP-US Visiting Forces
Agreement (VFA), RP-US Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (MLSA), and EDCA.
Related to these provisions, Article VIII, Sec. 25 prohibits the presence of foreign military bases,
troops, or facilities except under a treaty concurred in by the Senate and recognized as such by the
other state. Thus were the US bases removed from Philippine soil upon the expiration of the RPUS Military Bases Agreement in 1991. Absent such a bases treaty, the US has erroneously relied
on the 1951 Mutual Defence Treaty and, subsequently, the VFA to justify its permanent military
presence in the country.
Economic sovereignty
Under Article II, Sec. 19, the declared state policy is to develop a self-reliant and independent
national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos.
It is in Article XII on the National Economy and Patrimony that such a state policy is elaborated.
Article XII, Sec. 1 orders the State to promote industrialization and full employment based on
sound agricultural development and agrarian reform, through industries that make full and efficient
use of human and natural resources, and which are competitive in both domestic and foreign
markets, with a caveat that it shall protect Filipino enterprises against unfair foreign competition
and trade practices.;

Article XII, Sec. 2 directs the State to protect the nations marine wealth in its archipelagic waters,
territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to
Filipino citizens.
This provision is problematic with regards to the recent Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling
which declared Scarborough Shoal a traditional fishing ground for the Philippines, China and
Vietnam, thus not for the exclusive use of Filipino fishermen. An acceptable scheme for joint use
will have to be worked out among the three countries without abandoning our territorial and
maritime claims over Bajo de Masinloc.
The same section allows the President to enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations
involving either technical or financial assistance for large-scale exploration, development, and
utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils subject to the condition that In such
agreements, the State shall promote the development and use of local scientific and technical
This would be the most applicable framework for possible joint undertakings with China with
regards oil exploration in Recto Bank or any part of our EEZ. Such cooperation should be made
from the standpoint that the area is ours and China, or any foreign entity, can only be allowed
participation as providers of technical or financial assistance.
Unfortunately in the case of the Malampaya Gas Field, government allowed foreign corporations to
control 90% of our natural gas resources, with government share at a mere 10%. Likewise, in a
previous ruling, the Supreme Court allowed 100% foreign-owned mining companies to exploit and
control our mineral resources via a financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA). Duterte
should abandon this precedents and insist on Filipino ownership and control over our natural
With regards to land, Article XII, Sections 3, 7 and 8 taken together limit ownership to Filipino
citizens and corporations.
Article XII, Sec. 10 directs Congress to enact measures that will encourage the formation and
operation of enterprises whose capital is wholly owned by Filipinos and that In the grant of rights,
privileges, and concessions covering the national economy and patrimony, the State shall give
preference to qualified Filipinos. Furthermore, The State shall regulate and exercise authority over
foreign investments within its national jurisdiction and in accordance with its national goals and
Article XII, Sec. 11 reserves public utilities to Filipino citizens or companies and limits the
participation of foreign investors in the governing body of any public utility to their proportionate
share in its capital, provided all the executive and managing officers of such corporation or
association must be Filipino citizens;

Article XII, Sec. 12 directs the State to promote the preferential use of Filipino labor, domestic
materials and locally produced goods, and adopt measures that help make them competitive while
Sec. 14 limits the practice of all professions to Filipino citizens, save in cases prescribed by law.
Subsistence fishermen are specifically protected from foreign intrusions in in Article XIII, Sec. 7 on
Agrarian and Natural Resources Reform.
Sectors considered vital to the promotion of Philippine culture, namely education, mass media and
advertising, are also reserved for Filipino citizens and corporations as provided for in various
What this all boils down to is the promotion and protection of Filipino industries, land, labor and
goods from foreign domination and control. The provisions are quite insistent on the point that our
national resources should primarily benefit Filipinos and Filipino-owned entities. It explicitly directs
Congress and the Executive to take steps towards this objective.
The challenge for Duterte
The 1987 Constitution revolves around four themes - respect for human rights and civil liberties,
democratic governance and the prevention of another dictatorship, the promotion of social justice,
and the upholding of national sovereignty. It is no perfect document but it is the countrys highest
law binding all citizens, especially the President.
With respect to an independent foreign policy, the provisions cover not only our territorial and
maritime claims or our diplomatic relations but, even more substantially, protectionist policies on
the economy and national patrimony.
Ironically, previous governments have violated these provisions by maintaining the countrys
neocolonial relationship with the US and pursuing an export-oriented, import-dependent, foreigninvestment led, service-oriented economy for the last three decades.
Dutertes distancing himself from the US and EU is a good start. But the real challenge is for him to
follow the Constitution to the letter by abandoning the much travelled road of previous presidents
and treading the path of independent diplomacy and economic sovereignty.#