MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday, October 12, he has ordered the Department of National Defense to cancel war games next year even as he vowed to maintain military alliances with the US.
"I insist that we realign. There will be no more exercises next year. Do not prepare, I told Defense Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana. Do not make preparations for next year. I do not want it anymore," Duterte said in his speech at the 115th anniversary of the Philippine Coast Guard.
Duterte has repeatedly declared the recently concluded war games between the two treaty allies to be the last, but defense officials said they have not received clear orders from the president who is known to change his mind about his pronouncements.
In his speech before coast guard sailors on Wednesday, Duterte was again defensive against international controversy over curses he hurled at the US, the reason his scheduled meeting with President Barack Obama was scrapped during the ASEAN Summit in September.
The Philippine Coast Guard is among the beneficiaries of assistance from the US, which funded, among others, the construction of a National Coast Watch Center inside the coast guard grounds. (READ: Inside the 'brain' of PH maritime law enforcement operations)
Duterte said he will "chart an independent foreign policy" even as he intends to respect treaties with the US.
The Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) binds the two countries to come to each other's aid if one's sovereignty is threatened.
But Duterte expressed doubts the superpower can help the country in the event of a World War III.
"I ask you frankly. Give me your answer. We will maintain all military alliances because they say we need it for our defense. Should World War III [happen], do you think we still have time to discuss 3rd World War?" Duterte said.
"When all the ICBMs (guided ballistic missiles), when all the Poseidons (nuclear-armed submarine ballistic missiles) underneath the sea are [fired], where will we be? See you in heaven," he added.
Former president Fidel Ramos, who was among those who persuaded Duterte to run for president, has called out the antagonism against the US.
"For a leader, I am sorry to tell this: President Duterte, my president, our president, that is 20th-century thinking," Ramos said in an interview with Lynda Jumilla on ANC. (READ: Duterte stuck in '20th century thinking' – FVR)
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio also said it should be explained to the president that he cannot implement his plans to scrap patrols in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) because it is his constitutional duty to protect the country's maritime territories.
“There is a provision in the Constitution that the state shall protect its EEZ. The Constitution says the armed forces is responsible for protecting the national territory. Who is the head of the armed forces? The President,” Carpio said. (READ: PH should send patrols to the West PH Sea)
Carpio, one of the legal luminaries who led the country's historic case against China's maritime claims, was the surprise guest of honor and speaker at the closing ceremony of the Philippine-US Amphibious Landing Exercises (Phiblex) on Tuesday, October 11. – Rappler.com