Despite the incoherence, contradictions and sheer illogic of the declarations of President Duterte, his mouthpiece, secretary of foreign affairs and other officials on the country’s foreign relations, the Duterte regime does have a foreign policy. It can be summed up as accommodation if not outright obeisance to China no matter what the costs to the Philippines and its people. Nothing else, it seems, matters — not ASEAN, and certainly not the rest of the international community.
His defenders and partisans, as well as the trolls his regime pays out of public funds, describe President Rodrigo Duterte’s “leadership” as “decisive.”
They’re referring to the speed with which he tried to address the drug problem — the extent of which his minions, among them Alan Peter Cayetano, and he himself, exaggerate — and his promise to end it within six months. (Cayetano told the United Nations last year that seven million Filipinos are drug addicts, while Mr. Duterte pegs the number at four million. PDEA, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, put it at less than two million in 2016.)
The “independent foreign policy” that President Rodrigo Duterte said he wants to adopt for the Philippines has for some reason been interpreted as either a policy of isolation or autarky in the sense of non-involvement with the rest of the world and a denial of the interdependence of nations, or as a total break with the United States.