President Rodrigo Duterte played the diplomat in his first ever speech before the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, addressing geopolitical concerns, even his own war on drugs, while reminding world leaders that if they can't be friends, don't hate on each other too much.
Duterte was the 12th among 14 speakers in the opening of the UNGA, joining superpower rivals Donald Trump of the US, Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China as well as fellow leaders of the developing world such as Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and the leader of Europe, Emmanuel Macron of France.
The world needs "stability and confidence" during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, as "geopolitical tensions continue to rise."
"Escalating tensions benefit no one. New flashpoints heighten fears and tend to tear peoples apart. When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled flat," he said. "I therefore call on the stakeholders in the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East and Africa: if we cannot be friends as yet, then in God’s name, let us not hate each other too much. I heard it once said, and I say it to myself in complete agreement."
Duterte addressed his war on drugs
The President raised his anti-narcotics campaign, which had been the subject of criticism by the UN's own rights monitors.
"A number of interest groups have weaponized human rights; some well-meaning, others ill-intentioned," he said. "They attempt to discredit the functioning institutions and mechanisms of a democratic country and a popularly elected government which in its last two years, still enjoy the same widespread approval and support."
"To move forward, open dialogue and constructive engagement with the United Nations is the key. But these must be done in full respect of the principles of objectivity, noninterference, non-selectivity and genuine dialogue," he said.
He also raised the South China Sea disputes
Manila "firmly rejects" attempts to undermine its legal victory against Beijing before a UN-backed arbitration court, Duterte said. The Permanent Court of Arbitration sided with the Philippines and invalidated China's vast claims in the South China Sea.
"The Award is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon," he said.
"We welcome the increasing number of states that have come in support of the award and what it stands for — the triumph of reason over rashness, of law over disorder, of amity over ambition. This – as it should - is the majesty of the law," he said.
And climate change
The world must act against climate change with the same fervor as the battle against COVID-19, he said, especially since poor nations are vulnerable to its effects.
"Climate change has worsened the ravages of the pandemic. Peoples in developing countries like the Philippines suffer the most. We cannot afford to suffer more," he said.
He called on world leaders to fulfill their commitments to reduce global warming under the Paris Accord. "We call on all parties to strengthen communities and peoples for preparedness and resilience. We are talking about mankind and Earth, our one and only home."