Philippines turns back on US and pivots to Asia

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte (L) toasts with Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a banquet at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan October 26, 2016 © David Mareuil
The Philippines is looking east for investment rather than traditional ally the US. Both Tokyo and Beijing are interested in investing in Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines, according to Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.

Mindanao is known for its copper, gold, iron, aluminum, as well as natural gas and oil deposits. According to WikiLeaks, the island's untapped mineral resources may be worth up to $1 trillion.

From food to minerals, "the entire gamut of resources is open to development," Dominguez said during a CNBC interview on Thursday.

His comments follow President Rodrigo Duterte's visits to Japan and China to bolster Manila’s ties with its Asian neighbors and shift away from the United States.

Dominguez said an alliance with Asian countries is similar to ones like the European Union, NAFTA and Mercosur.

"Of course, there are political implications, but they will merely foster more cooperation and friendlier ties," he told the media.

“The Chinese have expressed interest but they don't have too much activity. Our previous administration barely spoke to the Chinese government while we have been in close cooperation with the Japanese for over 60 years," said the finance secretary.

"So far, Japan has been the largest ODA [official development assistance] provider to the Philippines, with $5.7 billion invested. The Chinese have offered ODA assistance of $6 billion but that's just the start...We're happy to get support from both neighbors," said Dominguez.

As of 2015, Philippines was the 39th largest economy in the world with a gross domestic product of $292 billion, only a fraction less than Singapore and more than EU members Ireland, Finland, Portugal and Greece.

From 2012 to 2015, the country’s economy annually grew on average 6.47 percent based on a surge in investment and strong consumption.