In an apparent turn, the Philippines has suddenly seen the importance of the Asean for its people.
Flipping on China, and saying he will burn the Singapore flag, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered his foreign affairs services to push for the expansion and deepening of the Asean services agreement.
In an obvious lack of tact in his foreign affairs policies, Duterte managed to offend President Barack Obama, offered an olive branch to Beijing while his country won a legal battle against China in the South China Sea, and created a stir in Singapore on flag burning threats.
Did Duterte forget that Singapore is one of the country’s where the Philippines dollar income is generated – thanks to the Filipinas working in the Republic? The zig-zag with the Asean is apparent.
Manilla is adopting a stance in which it wants to secure what is advantageous for its government, while at the same time underplaying the importance of Asean unity in the face of the many regional and global challenges.
Perhaps Duterte should have a little respect for the Asean, by not forgetting that it is his country that brought the SCS conflict to the International Court of Justice.
Unprepared, sulking in anger, Duterte should not act like an anti-drug commander when it comes to international affairs.
Otherwise, it will be seen as if the firebrand leader is ridiculing himself by thinking that he can simply dismiss his peers in the Asean while he expects them to welcome the Philipino workforce with open arms!
Instead, the Philippines should start to look into the reasons to consolidate Asean unity, which was severely tested after his policy blunders.
He might have to pay more attention to the real politics of the region, and attend the Shangrila Dialogue with the intentions to learn more about China, its intentions in the SCS and the need to support the Asean on the matter.