Asian nations should pursue an independent foreign policy to achieve their own development goals, without mimicking the West or seeking its blessing, the Filipino leader has suggested to members of the Asian Pacific community.
“Asia’s development experience shows us that it is futile to simply mimic the West,” Rodrigo Duterte told delegates at the closing dinner of the 51st Asian Development Bank (ADB) annual meeting in Mandaluyong City.
“We have to find our own ways to [meet] the challenges of the age. We will focus on policies that will fit the Asian mind. We will focus on the … many things and challenges that are unique in our kind,” the president of the Philippines said. “The next few years will be interesting times for the region. There is a time when Asia will lead the world and provide an example to other developing economies.”
The 73-year old leader focused his speech on the necessity to secure the economic stability of Asian nations, akcnowledging that ADB continues to contribute to a stable economic growth rate of around seven percent which, in turn, offers opportunities for the internal stability of his nation.
This sustained economic growth, among other things, he noted, will be used to develop the Island of Mindanao, where over the past year Filipino armed forces have been clashing with the local Maute militant group, which is affiliated with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). Duterte explained that the city of Marawi became the center of the unrest because it had the highest rates of poverty and low scores on the human development index, which a flourishing economy can change for the better.
Marawi’s situation “underscores the urgency not only of bringing the fruits of development to the island, it also underscores the importance of maintaining civil order as a condition of development.”
“My government will not compromise in the maintenance of law and order. We will not buckle in the face of threats from militants and terrorists. We are fully aware that, when civil order weakens, progress will no longer be possible,” he said.
For now, he promised to lead the nation through a number of immense infrastructure and other development projects, and was not shy to ask the ADB for assistance.
“I never saw such a crowd with so much money. Can you lend me more? I’m positive. Not positive of sickness, but positive in terms of economic viability,” Duterte said at the beginning of the speech, to break the ice with the crowd.
The sharped-tongue, flamboyant leader has declared pursuing an independent foreign policy to be a feature of his presidency. “I am not a fan of the Americans… Filipinos should be first before everybody else,” he was quoted as saying, shortly after the start of his term in 2016.
“We will observe and must insist on the time-honored principles of sovereignty, sovereign equality, non-interference, and a commitment to peaceful settlement of disputes,” he asserted at the time.