Cayetano thanks Tillerson for 'friendship' amid 'challenges'
MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano thanked outgoing US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for extending "friendship" even as ties between Manila and Washington faced "challenges" under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
"We thank Secretary Tillerson for his friendship and the support he has extended to the Philippines and the Filipino people particularly during the period when our relations with the United States were facing challenges. We pray for the best for Secretary Tillerson in all his future endeavors," Cayetano said late Tuesday night, March 13.
Trump on Tuesday replaced Tillerson with Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Mike Pompeo after Tillerson disagreed with Trump on key issues. Still, Cayetano thanked Tillerson for his "crucial role" in boosting ties between Manila and Washington.
In his statement Tuesday, Cayetano also congratulated Pompeo as the new Secretary of State. "We look forward to working with him and further stregthening the special relationship between the Philippines and the United States."
During his term as secretary of state, Tillerson sought to mend US ties with the Philippines, even meeting with Duterte in Manila and hosting Cayetano in Washington DC to discuss a broad range of issues, including human rights. Cayetano called Tillerson "a good friend of the Philippines."
Bilateral ties between the long-standing allies were strained after Duterte repeatedly berated then US President Barack Obama and the US State Department for raising concerns over human rights abuses in his controversial drug war. Duterte also declared that he would pursue an "independent foreign policy" that would forge stronger ties with countries like China and Russia.
Now, US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim describes Manila-Washington ties as "terrific." – Rappler.com