PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—Newly appointed foreign affairs secretary, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, said Wednesday evening that one of the bigger challenges that he would have to face once he becomes the country’s top diplomat would be to refrain from talking too much in public.
In a press briefing requested by Philippine media at the Himawari Hotel here, Cayetano said many things in diplomacy could not be spoken into the microphone.
“You gave me too much credit because I hold the microphone. Actually, the bigger challenge for me now is if politicians like microphones, diplomats should not engage in microphone diplomacy,” he said.
“Kasi iba ‘yung nag-iimplement ka ng strategy, iba ‘yung nagki-criticize ka. (It is different when you are implementing a strategy, when you are criticizing something.) So that’s a bigger challenge for me.”
Having said that, it is the duty of the government to be transparent and to enlighten the public of all its policies, including foreign policy, he added.
The senator however explained that policy is different from strategy and his new post would preclude him from telegraphing the government’s hand in any negotiation.
“Minsan kasi ang alam na naman nung iba, ’yung policy. Pero ‘yung stategy ang gustong kwestyunin o gusto pag-usapan. Eh saan ka naman makakakita na nasa gitna ka ng struggle, ng laban, ipapakita mo ‘yung strategy sa buong mundo (Sometimes, people want to question or discuss policies. But if you are in the middle of a struggle, you cannot lay your strategy before the world) ,” Cayetano pointed out.
However, the current chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs said he is willing to engage Congress, the media and other interest groups in private discussions.
“I would like to institutionalize more briefings na off the record to the media, to the Senate, to the House and to other interested groups, including think tanks, so that they will know the information that we know,” he said.
“Because sometimes, kulang ng impormasyon (we lack information). But when we do those briefings, it’s with the understanding that there are things that are not for broadcast. For instance, negotiations. May kailangan sila, may kailangan tayo. (They need something, we need something.) There are a lot of things about diplomacy that you cannot use the microphone.”
“That’s why I’m here because it’s my obligation but after this, after my saying thank you confirmation, you’ll hear more from the (Presidential) Spokesman and much, much less from me because nga hindi tayo gagamit ng (I will no longer use) microphone diplomacy,” he added.
In the meantime, Cayetano vowed that the DFA under his watch will work hard to implement the foreign policy of the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte.
He said that as President Duterte promised, the DFA will prioritize the welfare, protection and comfort of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
And in the wake of warming relationships with China and Russia, he said it is also equally important to maintain relationships with allies while trying to build ties with other countries.
“The new bridges, the new friends that the President established and then how do we repair kung meron mang problema sa old allies natin (our relationship with our old allies if we have problems with them). So ‘yun ang magiging mission ng mga taga-DFA (That will be the mission of the DFA), to follow the policy of the President, but to keep building bridges,” Cayetano said.