‘PHL-U.S. relationship is 2-way street; we can’t always be the nice guy’ — Chuasoto (Part 2)
The FilAm (TF): Is Marciano Paynor no longer in the running for the Ambassador position?
Patrick Chuasoto (PC): I’m not sure.
TF: Is President Duterte coming to the U.S. for a state visit?
PC: Put it this way, in my almost 19 years in the foreign service, anything can happen. At this point I cannot rule it out, I cannot say yes also.
TF: How would you characterize Philippine-U.S. relations?
PC: It’s something that’s strong and stable. It’s like any relationship, there are ups and downs. You cannot discount the lynchpin of the relations, the 3.4 million Filipino Americans out of 10 million Filipinos outside of the country. That’s the most number in any country. People-to-people ties are keeping the relations intact. There’s no perfect relationship.
TF: Pres. Duterte is quite forthright when he speaks about the U.S., probably the first Philippine president who has spoken to the U.S. that way.
PC: Yes. He has a different leadership style. Even the American stakeholders recognize that. He’s very unlike other Philippine presidents.
TF: Filipinos are divided. Some are saying we are finally learning to assert ourselves to our former colonial masters, others saying he is rude and impolite.
PC: President Duterte speaks his mind. He doesn’t hide anything, he is as transparent as you can get. Just like in any relationship the other side has to adjust too. It’s a two-way street. It can’t be the Philippines always taking a nice nice nice guy approach.
TF: Do you think Americans are now looking at us differently? For many years they thought of Filipinos are reserved, quiet, non-confrontational.
PC: It got them to reflect on the relationship. I’m confident it will go well. Just so happens that this time that I’m here it’s like the ship is on wavy seas.
TF: How much is the Philippines receiving in foreign military aid from the U.S. annually?
PC: We’re getting a lot. $50 million a year.
TF: Isn’t it kind of small considering how strategically important the Philippines is in Asia?
PC: There are views that $50 million a year is not big enough. But $50 million is still in the Top 10 of the U.S. fmf (foreign military financing). The most that they give is $3.1 billion to Israel, $1.3 billion to Egypt, $300 million to Jordan, $265 million to Pakistan, then $75 (to Lebanon), and $50 million. We’re still in the Top 10. For East Asia and the Pacific, we’re no 1.
TF: How did we lose the Millennium Challenge?
PC: I would not use that word ‘lose.’ The decision was deferred. There was no decision to withhold (funding for the Philippines). The newspapers I think mischaracterized it. The work for the compact goes on.
(Media reports state that the Millennium Challenge Corporation had “deferred” a vote on the reselection of the Philippines for compact development, “subject to a further review of concerns around rule of law and civil liberties.” MCC is an independent aid agency that offers grants to countries contingent on reforms in the areas of good governance, economic freedom, access to health and education for its citizens and other conditions. The Philippines was awarded a $434 million grant in 2010.)
TF: The issue of drug-related killings, do you see the U.S. government trying its aid to that?
PC: Human rights is part and parcel of the U.S. government advocacy. However what many don’t realize is there a war on drugs for every country. Even here in the U.S.
TF: Are the Balikatan exercises still continuing?
PC: According to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, they will continue. They will continue yearly, the special ops exercises on counterterrorism, engineering projects, civic action.
TF: If a new ambassador arrives, will you stay on or will you get a new assignment?
PC: I go back to my previous job as deputy chief of mission. It’s a six-year tour. I just finished one half.