Mindanao biz leaders upbeat despite PH ‘separation’ from US

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 October) – Mindanao business leaders have remained upbeat on the country’s economy amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncements the country will “separate” from the US militarily economically.

Duterte announced the shift in foreign policy during his state visit to China last week.

In a text message, Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industries Inc. (DCCCII) president Bonifacio Tan told MindaNews the new policy won’t bring adverse effects to the country’s economy as direct investments from the US are not substantial, except for the remittances of the overseas Filipino workers there.

He added it is the US military that benefits much from joint military exercises in the country with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“Actually, mutual military exercise does not benefit so much Philippine government because military armaments given to us very are minimal,” he said.

Mindanao Business Council (MBC) president Vicente T. Lao added that Duterte only wanted to chart a more independent economic policy “because we are in a region with one of the best economies in the world and with the fastest growth.”

“These are the economic realities of our times, so we have to realign our interest and directions to take advantage of these opportunities,” he said.

Lao dismissed speculations that Duterte was completely cutting diplomatic ties with the West.

DCCCII executive vice president Sofronio Jucutan said that Duterte did not intend to sever ties with the US as “severance and separation are different in meaning.”

“He did say separate, or part ways in foreign policy. He means sovereignty should be exercised,” he said.

He said pursuing a more independent economic foreign policy will do more good for “the dignity and business in the long run.”

Another business leader, Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director Stephen Antig, said that while the impact of “separation” from the US remains to be seen, Duterte knows what he is doing.

“If China is indeed investing a lot in the Philippines and considering that it is an economic power itself that can absorb a lot of our produce, then maybe the impact or effects of the separation may not be that great,” he said.

Last Friday, Duterte clarified in a press conference after his arrival at the F. Bangoy International Airport from state visits to Brunei and China that he was not severing diplomatic ties with the US.

“You know, you have to take my words in the context of what I’ve been saying all along. It’s not severance of ties. Iyong sa severance of ties, you cut the diplomatic relations. I cannot do that. Why? It’s to the best interest of my country that we maintain that relationship,” he said.

He maintained that he meant only separation of foreign policy.

“In the past and until I became president, we always follow what the United States would give the cue. He would give the cue that we are there, we are there, we follow, sunud-sunod tayo. Hindi ako magsunod,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)