MANILA, Philippines – A day after saying he wanted United States troops out of Mindanao, President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated the country’s strong ties with its military allies.
“We are not going to cut our umbilical cord with the countries we are allied now,” Duterte said on Tuesday, September 13, during a Philippine Air Force event at the Villamor Airbase.
The President’s statement was consistent with what Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr said on Tuesday morning, before he left for the US to attend the United Nations General Assembly. (READ: Yasay: No shift in Philippine policy on US)
But in the same speech, Duterte was equally insistent on how he wanted the Philippines to chart an “independent foreign policy.”
“Sometimes you ponder, I said, on how we should conduct our foreign policy. You know, we could never be just a small country and to be shouted at or lectured upon by any foreign country or by any president,” he said.
His statement brings to mind his controversial rant against US President Barack Obama who he was told wanted to discuss human rights violations with him in their bilateral meeting, a meeting that was postponed.
“We cannot be forever shouted at and lectured upon, not me. As I said in my quest for what is right for my country, I’m putting on table at stake my honor my life and the presidency, period,” said the President.
The Philippines has long counted on defense ties with countries like the US and Japan amidst its maritime dispute with China.
The historic Hague ruling which recognized the Philippines’ claim in the West Philippine Sea has added tensions in the area, as China maintained that it would not abide by the non-binding award.
Both US and Japan want the Philippines to use the historic ruling as leverage over China, even as China said it rejects the decision.
Without naming countries, Duterte said he wanted to preserve military alliances.
“We are not cutting our alliances military as well but certainly, we will follow an independent posture and independent foreign policy,” he said.
Addressing Filipinos in Indonesia dring his recent working visit to Jakarta, the President slammed the US and praised China, leading observers to wonder whether this was the new foreign policy he had in mind for the Philippines. – Rappler.com