Even the highly critical London think tank Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) had conceded to the consistency of the policy of President Rody Duterte in giving priority to social policy over foreign relations.
It likewise noted that the shift in the foreign policy from the previous president, Noynoy Aquino, “has been remarkable.”
The EIU, which global investors follow, assessed the final half of the Duterte administration and highlighted the administration’s unchanging positions.
To a serious business venture who wanted to invest long-term, predictability is utmost and the EIU said, for at least the next three years, there is no foreseen shift in the policies of Rody.
It gave the independent policy of Rody a good review in terms of assuring a consistent outlook.
“Mr. Aquino prioritized the long-standing security relationship with the US, took a strong line against Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea and promoted economic diplomacy with international organizations. Mr. Duterte has taken the opposite position on each of these issues. However, Mr. Duterte remains hugely popular at home, and the Economist Intelligence Unit believes that, with strong legislative backing, Rody will continue to prioritize his social policies over his country’s relations with Western powers,” it noted.
Similarly, Rody’s approach to other nations through the independent foreign policy was measured.
“Much of the international community reacted with horror to details of Mr. Duterte’s signature social policy: a war on drugs that has encompassed extrajudicial killings,” it noted.
“Disapproving foreign governments have only limited leverage over Mr. Duterte, especially as he has taken a series of steps to weaken the Philippines’ relationship with the US,” the EIU viewed.
It noted a “different approach” in which a group of countries used the United Nations (UN) to voice its disapproval of the Philippine government’s social policy, or the focus on the war on drugs.
A vote at the UN’s Human Rights Council in July narrowly supported a resolution, promoted by Iceland, to conduct a full investigation into Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs. A total of 18 states voted in favor, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, Italy and Mexico, while 14 opposed the resolution and 15 abstained.
The EIU review “indicated that the government’s response was entirely consistent with its previous direction.”
Among those steady reactions of Rody were his incendiary statements against Iceland and the vituperation on the resolution’s supporters for their lack of understanding of the Philippines’ domestic problems.
The EIU even supported the view that the benefits outweigh the cost of the strategy taken against the foreign nations lambasting Rody’s signature campaign.
“The opposition Liberal Party was critical, telling domestic media that the sums of aid foregone were significant. The Foreign Affairs minister, Teodoro Locsin Jr, acknowledged the memo but played down the economic impact of the move and its impact on the government’s infrastructure plan,” it noted.
The EIU noted, “The administration is probably correct here.”
It has previously rejected 260 million euros ($290 million) worth of European Union funding for development projects in response to criticism from European politicians.
“The total value of current overseas development aid at end-2018 stood at $2.2 billion, with signatories to the Iceland resolution accounting for around $490 million, which is equivalent to 0.2 percent of nominal gross domestic product (GDP).”
At the macro level, total losses “are not sufficient to worry the government.”
“The administration will weigh this small financial loss against the greater political damage it would face were it to be seen to weaken its position on its most recognizable social policy,” according to the EIU.
It ceded the enormous political strength of Rody will counter all international criticism.
Polling by Social Weather Stations, a domestic organization, showed that net satisfaction with the administration’s war on drugs stood at 70 percent in mid-2019 — the highest level since the early days of the campaign in late 2016. Mr. Duterte had a net satisfaction rating of 68 percent — higher than any of his five predecessors at the equivalent point in their presidential terms.
EIU hinted, though, that consistency beyond his term may need a like-minded successor.
“With his supporters enjoying a majority in both houses of Congress, Mr. Duterte is in a strong position to push his policy agenda for the remaining two years of his term, before endorsing his daughter, Sara Duterte, as his successor at the 2022 election,” it noted.
And why not?