MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has gained momentum with his consecutive trips to Beijing and Tokyo, an analyst said Friday.
Dr. Chester Cabalza of National Defense College said Duterte's recent visit to Japan was a good move since the President was able to reassure Japan of the Philippines' commitment especially since the two countries are both locked in maritime disputes with China.
"It was done in the right time because you have these Asian Argonauts. You have China there, and, of course, Japan. These are two Asian powerhouses, and there would always be room for comparison," he told Mornings@ANC.
"You know what happened in China. We had some problems in the past with China because of maritime claims but, all of a sudden, Japan is there to balance the equation."
"I think it was (a) good move from the President, especially coming from China. He was able to gain some momentum there. His visit to Japan is one of the defining moments in his administration for the past four months."
Cabalza said Duterte's trip elevated the strategic partnership between the Philippines and Japan.
"Of course, we also gained some economic and trade deals with Japan. Japan has been very supportive of our economic programs and of course with some of our security programs in the Philippines," he said, noting the support given to the expansion of the Philippine Coast Guard.
Philippine officials said Thursday Duterte's three-day visit to Japan yielded investment commitments worth $1.85 billion from private companies and 17.1 billion yen ($162 million) worth of loans and grants.
Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez told Kyodo News the investments, forged through memoranda of understanding and letters of intent, are in the automotive, egg-laying technology, optical imagery, and biofuel fields, among others.
"The fresh commitments may generate between 200,000 to 250,000 direct and indirect jobs over the years," Trade Undersecretary Nora Terrado told Kyodo News in a separate interview.
Cabalza also praised Duterte for clarifying his position on territorial disputes in the South China Sea "and to peacefully settle these maritime disputes without resulting to the use of force."
"They also asserted the significance of self-restraint and non-militarization in the South China Sea. That’s good because we’re seeing some light in the independent foreign policy of the President that is slowly finding its own niche because of the President’s engagement with these Asian capitals."
Arriving at a peaceful resolution, he said, would also stimulate economic growth in the region, because at the moment, "we are gaining more momentum in terms of the economic trade activities in the Asia-Pacific."
"For sure, that would be the intention of these countries on how to elevate that kind of Asian century mentality because we see that economics will become the engine for all these activities in the region," he said.
VISIT U.S. AFTER POLLS
Cabalza also believes President Duterte should visit the United States in the near future despite his criticisms of the US. He said Duterte can schedule a visit after the next American president is inaugurated on January 2017.
"Next year would be the best time to visit the US, but as for now, I don’t think he should visit the US because of those radical rhetorics," he said.
Cabalza said the Duterte administration's push for an independent foreign policy is "seeing some light."
"Things are changing, evolving and we are seeing a very ambiguous policy at the moment because of the vulnerable regional security that we are seeing right now."
"For sure, since these rhetorics and pronouncements are evolving as well, we could connect and give all the dots there that would help us define and clarify our independent foreign policy."