Duterte on US relations: To separate is not too severe

Duterte’s trip to  China has elicited strong reactions from just one statement. Overshadowing the other developments that happened like: (i) The business deals; (ii) New agreements ranging from drug rehabilitation, diplomatic ties, and to trade; And (iii) new investment and soft loans over 13 Billion US Dollars.  This was the  phrase “separation from the US”. It resulted in a number of reactions and remarks from the United States Government and a number of individuals. As usual debates and discourse ensued as to what the President meant. Even during a press briefing at Malacanang the communications group played it safe and said they would not comment until a written policy order was handed down by the President.  The no comment tactic till a presidential written policy came or  no comment till the President came back was strictly followed amidst the persistent questioning of reporters.

What did the President say when he said separation from the United States? What does the reaction show about the relationship of the Philippines and the US? What does it show about the state, perception and reality of Outsourcing Industry? And what is the Duterte Foreign Policy? Should we be alarmed?

I. Duterte’s State Visit To China and the Separation Statement

The State Visit to China comes at a time when there is an on-going contention over the South China Sea. It is a political issue that involves countries of South East Asia, East Asia, Russia and the United States. This potential flash point , point of potential armed conflict, has had three major developments: (i) China’s reclamation efforts in the disputed area and an increase in activity by its coast guard and navy — which incidentally had naval military exercises with Russia; (ii) The favorable ruling of an international court for the Philippines regarding this case; And (iii) the naval patrol missions of the United States over the sea. In the previous administration there had been a deterioration of relations with China due to this issue and issues like the hostage crisis that resulted in the killing of several tourists from China.  Duterte’s assumption to the presidency provided an opportunity of seeking a diplomatic solution to this problem. The Duterte Presidency also provided an opportunity to repair diplomatic relations with China and potentially remove trade bans and sanctions imposed by China.  For Duterte the trick was to do this without capitulating to China’s demands and what happened was exactly that; The visit was to restore frayed relationships and to start the talks between China and the Philippines.

II. Duterte’s Own Words Distinguishing  Separation And Severance Of Ties

There were several reactions: (i) The US in its official statement said they would ask the Philippine Government what Duterte meant, obviously learning from past experiences with the President; (ii) There were Filipinos who panicked as to what this meant; (iii) There were Filipinos who interpreted this a breaking ties with the US and this got them mad; (iv) There were businesses who aired their concern over what this meant and feared what will happen next; (v) And not surprisingly there were a number of Filipinos Pro-US and Anti-China who were angry.

The President explained his Separation Statement when he spoke before the Press upon his arrival from China, The question was asked what he meant by separating from the United States. He replied it mean the Philippines would pursue a more independent path from the US. He pointed out that to separate with the US was to take a more independent path, which was different from to severe with the US, which meant to cut ties.  This he would not do and could not do alone, meaning if ever this was undertaken it would go through a consultation process.

He basically re-affirmed the Duterte Foreign Policy.

III. The Reaction of and Reality of the BPO Business and the Outsourcing Industry

One of the more interesting reaction to the Duterte statement came from some people who identified them as coming from business and in particular the outsourcing industry. Hopefully, Those fears have been allayed by the President Duterte during when he answered the questions on separating with the US.

Coming from the Outsourcing Industry , spending more than 15 years, and seeing the fall and growth of two outsourcing and back operations company. Employees and managers should be more worried about their bottom-line and profitability. Sure, the politics of the country might be factor in the continuing existence of an outsourcing operations but this pales in comparison with the effect of the bottom line.

The first company I went to was billed as the industry pioneer in outsourcing and data processing. It employed over a thousand of employees creating abstracts, scanning and digitizing information products. However, There came a time when profits fell and labor problems began to rise. What happened then? The company folded and established smaller companies where the still profitable projects were housed.

The second company I went to was and is still successful. Outsourcing  not only information products but also accounting, information technology, marketing, customer service, editing and in-house art production services. The company a subsidiary of a large European Multinational News and Media Corporation was critical in keeping the business profitable. The offices it has rent has become bigger and bigger.

So why in spite of being profitable the company just rents its offices? The reason behind this is so that if the situation arises it would be easy to fold-up operations and move shop if the need arises. And what would be one of the most compelling need profitability.

I am not against foreign businesses in the country. I have made a number of friends from my time there, both Filipinos and Expat. During my stay I was also able to travel and stay in other countries. And the pay was good.  As employees and even managers one should realize that the first and loyalty of any company is to profit and while we are there what employees and even managers can do is to take advantage of the situation and plan for the future. This is because there is no such thing as an everlasting banquet under the Sun.

IV. The Duterte Foreign Policy

President Duterte’s Foreign Policy is simple: (i) It is about establishing healthy relations with everyone; (ii) Prioritizing diplomatic solutions to issues between the Philippines and other countries; (iii) Maintaining the country’s Independence and National Sovereignty.

As to the Philippine and United States relationship on both sides there is a recalibration of conversation and nuances. What Duterte has done is to state in action and in talk that the status quo of the Philippines as a constant ally has changed and it is now more independent.The United States, through its President, the United States Department and the U.S. Embassy Manila has to recalibrate its moves. Based on the recent pronouncement coming from the United States when asked about Duterte’s Separation Statement, saying we will ask clarification on what that meant. It seems that it has.

The President’s next visit would be Japan and it would be interesting to see how it will pan out.