"I do not mean to cancel or abrogate the military alliances," said Duterte on Tuesday, October 11, during the oath-taking of government officials in Malacañang Palace.
But right after this statement, he wondered out loud if the Philippines needs these military partnerships in the first place.
"But tanungin ko kayo (But let me ask you). Do you really think we need it? If there is a war? Magka upakan (If there is a war), do you think we really need America? And do we need China and Russia, for that matter? Or do we need somebody" asked Duterte.
The Philippine president previously vowed to pursue an "independent foreign policy." His speeches of late have been peppered with insults against the US and praises for China and Russia.
In his Tuesday speech, Duterte warned the US that Chinese and Russian leaders won't be bullied.
Xi Jinping, Putin
"Bantay silang – itong arrogance ng American. Xi Jinping, lalo na si Putin, talagang – 'wag tayo magkamali diyan," he said, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin who he has professed a preference for.
(They should watch out – the arrogance of America, Xi Jin Ping, especially Putin – Let's not make an error there.)
Duterte said of Putin: "'Pag ginusto niya, kunin talaga niya. He wanted Crimea, he simply went there to occupy it. Ang America walang nagawa." (If he wants something, he will get it. He wanted Crimea, he simply went there to occupy it. America could do nothing.)
Duterte seemed to say that at the end of the day, no military alliance will help the Philippines during a world war, and so less dependence on other nations is the better approach.
"Pag nagbiraan 'yan lahat at nagbitawan 'yang ICBMS pati 'yung mga Poseidon lahat na, there will be no more American aid to talk of. There will no more be a country strong enough to rule. Pag magdating 'yan, wala tayong kailangan kundi 'yung pari kung gusto mo lang mag-ultimo adios. Is there such a thing as a Third World War? Ah kalokohan," he said.
(When everyone releases their missiles, there will be no more American aid to talk of. There will no more be a country strong enough to rule. If it reaches that point, we won't need anything but a priest if you want to say your final goodbye. Is there such a thing as a Third World War? That's nonsense.)
Duterte would thus rather pursue alliances in other less contentious sectors.
"So let us go for alliances that would contribute to the health, to the education, if there's a world out there waiting for our children. Otherwise, we need to protect them," he said.
Previously, Duterte claimed China and Russia have offered the Philippine government deals on the purchase of defense assets. He had instructed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to buy military equipment from these countries.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.