The UN and the President’s independent foreign policy

Featured Image

October 1, 2021

Our country’s chief architect of foreign policy, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, once again faced his fellow world leaders at the 76th Session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on 21 September 2021, where he articulated issues relevant to the Philippines and to the world.

The President’s first point of discourse was the issue of inequality and how the poorest nations suffer the hardest from world issues, which he said can all be tied to injustice.

Our Chief Executive expressed his dismay on how rich countries hoard the vaccines needed to protect people from severe disease and death due to Covid-19, and how these much developed nations are already talking of booster doses while developing countries consider half-doses to get by.

President Duterte called such actions as selfish acts that he said can neither be justified rationally nor morally. Our Chief Executive underscored the pandemic will not end unless the virus is defeated everywhere, which he said is the reason why the Philippines contributed $1 million to the COVAX Facility as the country’s modest contribution to the worldwide fight against Covid-19.

Like our President, vaccine equality is also one of the campaigns that I have highlighted in my nomination in the International Law Commission. I believe the only way for all countries to have equal opportunities and access to vaccines is by establishing a treaty that will be honored by all nations to make it happen.

Meanwhile, on the issue of climate change, President Duterte said the Philippines accepts its responsibility on the matter and presented some of the actions the government has taken, including the issuance of a moratorium on the construction of new coal power plants and a directive to explore nuclear energy options.

On the many issues faced by overseas Filipino workers, President Duterte called for the abolition of all structures that allow oppression and exploitation of migrant workers, specifically the kafala system, which he said should be dismantled sooner than later for the sake of justice and basic decency.

President Duterte also touched on his administration’s campaign against illegal drugs and informed the UN he had directed the Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police to review the conduct of the campaign against illegal drugs. He stressed those who will be found to have acted beyond their bounds during the illegal drugs operations shall be made accountable before the nation’s laws.

Another important issue that was tackled by the President in his speech at the UNGA is the issue on the SCS, where he articulated the Philippines is one with the ASEAN and other stakeholders in ensuring the South China Sea remains a sea of peace, security and prosperity.

The President highlighted the importance of the 2016 Arbitral Award, which he said cannot be diminished by any amount of willful disregard by any country, however big and powerful it may be.

Our Chief Executive also talked about how the Philippines had opened its doors to Afghan nationals who were fleeing from conflict and the country’s readiness to support the Rohingyas through a cooperation program, together with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Lastly, the President called for a reform in the UN to better empower the organization to lead the world out of the many crises that humanity faces. He particularly pointed out how the UN Security Council has neither been democratic nor transparent in its representation and processes, to which many member states have spoken firmly against, said President Duterte.

The President’s remarks underscore his independent foreign policy, which his administration chartered early on in his presidency. We can therefore expect President Duterte to continue to uphold this principle until the remainder of his term with the interest and welfare of the Filipinos foremost in his mind.