Will it be a Duterte-Trump summit next year when the Philippines hosted the 50th founding anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)?
Incoming Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana raised this question as he cited how the "hedging" strategy of the Duterte administration could work for the Philippines following the election of Donald Trump as the United States 45th president.
"There's gonna be several areas to look at (following Trump's election). Who he will name as Secretary of State? When they start naming the people in charge of Asia in State Department? Will he attend the ASEAN summit when the Philippines chairs it next year? Because (if he attends), that would be a Duterte-Trump summit," he said in a forum about China-Philippines relations in Makati City.
The US is one of the dialogue partners of the ASEAN. The American president usually attends the annual ASEAN Summit and Related Summits.
The Philippines, a founder of ASEAN, will host the annual regional meeting next year, coinciding the 50th founding anniversary of the regional bloc.
Duterte said Wednesday night before the Filipino community in Malaysia where he was on an overnight trip that he and Trump have the same in common - curse publicly.
But Duterte also decided to distance himself from the US in terms of military and commerce, and expressed desire to have closer relations with China as far as commerce and trade are concerned despite a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
Sta. Romana said there could be a difference in American approach to the Philippines under the Trump administration.
He cited Trump's previous statement that he wanted the jobs back to the US, thus, may result to the withdrawal of American business process outsourcing firms from the Philippines.
In the case of China, he said there was a risk of a trade war between America and China following Trump's statement when he was still campaigning that he would impose 45 percent tax on Chinese exports to the US.
"Some pessimists say he (Trump) could abandon the alliance (between the Philippines and US), and if he does that, it is best that we hedge. This is the wisdom of hedging strategy. You're ready," he said.
He explained that hedging strategy is a risk diversification strategy in the light of uncertainty because of what has been happening in the US.
Meanwhile, Patrick Ip, principal investment of the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund, cited the need for the Philippines to invest more on infrastructure and "to relax" certain economic restrictions to make more Chinese businessmen and tourists come into the Philippines.
"Infrastructure logistics here must step up," he said, citing that in the previous years, government's budget for infrastructure was only about 3 percent of the country's gross domestic product.
The Duterte administration is eyeing to increase its budget for infrastructure to over 5 percent of GDP next year and up to 7 percent until the end of Duterte's term by 2022.
Stephen Techico, chairman of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Associations of the Philippines, expressed hope there will be more facilities built for tourists.
Techico, also chairman of the Uni-Orient Travel, Inc., said there could be more Chinese tourists who will visit the country in the coming years following the decision of China to lift its travel warning on the Philippines.
He said only less than one million tourists visited the Philippines in recent years.
"Hopefully next year, we surpass the one million target," he said.
Sta. Romana said the Philippines and China would work on the possibility of "reciprocal visa free" for the tourists of the two countries. Celerina Monte/DMS