By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte is seriously considering cutting diplomatic ties with Iceland after it won United Nations support to have the Philippines investigated for its deadly war on drugs, his spokesman said yesterday.
“The two of us can only speculate that maybe some activists are feeding Iceland with the wrong information,” presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo told reporters in Manila.
The UN Human Rights Council on July 11 ordered its human rights office to present a comprehensive report as it expressed concerns about human rights violations in the Philippines. The body adopted a resolution that Iceland proposed and 17 other nations supported.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. begs to disagree, saying the nation will keep ties with Iceland, nor will it withdraw from the UN council.
“The UNHRC vote is a small and harmless matter and we’re staying in UNHRC as a pedagogical duty to teach Europeans moral manners,” he said in a social media post on Tuesday.
“We’re NOT severing diplomatic relations with any country. If we did, where’s the conversation? How do you insult those who insulted us if you cut them off?”
Mr. Locsin at the weekend hinted at the possibility of withdrawing from the UN body, just as the United States did in June 2018.
The UN council had urged the government to cooperate with UN offices by allowing visits by its officials and by “refraining from all acts of intimidation or retaliation.”
The Philippines, where police have admitted killing more than 6,000 drug suspects, has rejected the decision and will remain unrelenting in its campaign against illegal drugs, Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea said in a statement on Monday.
Mr. Panelo said trade relations with Iceland would continue because these will benefit both countries.
Philippine exports to Iceland of mostly resins, gems and metals, and electronic equipment more than tripled last year to $749,302 from a year earlier, according to data posted on the United Nations Comtrade website. Imports of mostly machinery, fish and dairy products from the Nordic country more than doubled to $916,246 during the same period.
Iceland ranked 132nd among the Philippines’ 221 trading partners in 2018, according to the Trade department. It ranked 121st as an import supplier and 127th as an exporter.
“We have very few Filipinos workers in Iceland and it’s not one of our major trading partners,” Dennis C. Coronacion, who heads the University of Santo Tomas Political Science Department, said in a text message.
But severing ties with Iceland could tarnish Philippine image globally and a bad perception could turn away foreign investors, he said.
“Our image as a country that upholds the rule of law, protects human rights and fosters international cooperation is going to suffer,” Mr. Coronacion said.
The two countries have been steady maritime partners as well as in the areas of mining, renewable energy, medical services, fisheries and geothermal energy, according to the Philippine Embassy website.
Filipinos make up the biggest group of Asian immigrants in the Nordic country.