Duterte says PH still 'best friend' of U.S.

MANILA, Philippines – A day before he is expected to meet United States President Donald Trump for the first time, President Rodrigo Duterte said the Philippines is America's best friend.

"We remain to be the best of friends with America," said Duterte on Tuesday, November 7, addressing the Philippine Marines in Taguig City.

He recognized that many in the Philippine military are pro-America, even if he himself has mixed feelings about the former colonial power.

"Most of you or some of you went to school in America and I do not blame you if your sentiments really remain with the power that helped us for the longest time," said Duterte to an audience that included some American soldiers. 

Despite these ties between the Philippines and the US, Duterte said geopolitics is changing relations between countries. He cited specifically the tension caused by North Korea's ballistic missile launches.

"But the change of the situation now and even the geography, the geography of the world is really changing. I just hope Korea would have the sense to avoid it," said the Philippine leader.

In the same speech, Duterte thanked the US for its assistance in the fight to liberate Marawi City. He thanked other countries too, like China, Russia, and Israel.

"Out of the gratitude to the US for giving us the equipment, China for giving us the arms, Soviet Union (Russia) President Putin also contributed and Israel, and the others who lent us the equipment needed really to win the war," said Duterte.

Duterte is set to meet Trump for the first time on Wednesday, November 8, during the welcome dinner for country leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Da Nang. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said a bilateral meeting between the two leaders is possible in Vietnam. 

But the presidents are expected to have a longer, more substantive bilateral meeting when Trump visits Manila to attend the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

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 pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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