A MONTH after Russia invaded Ukraine, UniTeam senatorial candidate Harry Roque on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s (DU30) neutral stand on the conflict serves the national interest of conducting good faith international relations.
Roque agreed with the country’s support of the United Nations resolution condemning Ukraine’s illegal occupation and the President’s decision to steer the Philippines away from any armed conflict.
The former presidential spokesman also acknowledged the government’s diplomatic stance.
“We gain nothing from taking sides in this ongoing war, and we must avoid being dragged into it,” he said.
“The neutral position of the President is correct. Our primary interest is to ensure the country’s economic survival and insulate the people from inflated prices of goods and services,” he added.
The international law expert said the Philippines and other countries must strictly comply with the spirit and letter of the United Nations (UN) Charter and other international treaties to prevent conflicts and acts of aggression from happening.
In a recent meeting with Duterte, Roque raised his proposal for the Chief Executive to reach out to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said the Philippines and global economies are “hurting” from the conflict-induced inflationary pressures.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) downgraded its 2022 global economic growth projection to 2.6% in March.
Russia will experience a deep recession while slowdowns will hit Southeast Asia and other regions.
Roque said Putin might listen to Duterte’s recommendations on best expediting the conflict’s resolution because Russia’s economy has faced international sanctions since February.
He suggested that Duterte invoke the skyrocketing costs of global fuel and food, which have decelerated the pandemic-hit economies of developing countries, as the compelling reason to end the war.
“We hope Mr. Putin would end Russia’s use of unilateral force in Ukraine,” Roque said.
“The conflict has compounded the hardships of millions of people who are still dealing with the impacts of COVID-19,” Roque stressed.
The former party-list representative stated, “I hope that the President will give it a shot because he is among the few heads of state that are still friends with Mr. Putin.”
According to Roque, the country has to maintain its policy of neutrality given its standing military agreements with the United States, which allows the prepositioning of the latter’s troops and weapons within the Philippine territory.
“If this war becomes protracted or gets overblown, and given our bilateral military treaties, the Philippines might become a ready target of forces not allied with the US,” Roque said.
In 1951, the Philippines and the US entered into a Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), obliging both countries to defend themselves against external armed attacks in the Pacific area.
In 2014, both countries signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation (EDCA) anchored on the MDT.
Subject to the parties’ mutual agreement, the EDCA will allow for the enhanced rotational presence of US forces at agreed locations in the Philippines.