MANILA, Philippines – Presidential bet Rodrigo Duterte plans to meet with the United States embassy within the month of March to discuss his stand on key issues, he told media on Monday, March 7.
Emissaries from the embassy extended an invitation to him after he filed his candidacy for president, he said.
“They have invited me to talk to them, through emissaries. There is no set date yet because I am trying to look for a day that I can talk to them without being worried about time constraints,” he said during a sortie in Rizal province.
The Mindanaoan presidential candidate says he expects embassy officials to ask him about his stand on issues that matter to both the US and the Philippines.
These include the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and the Philippines’ maritime dispute with China. The EDCA is a military deal that gives US troops, planes and ships increased rotational presence in Philippine military bases, and allows Washington to build facilities to store fuel and equipment there.
“So they would know also your thoughts on Spratlys, EDCA. I am sure they will ask me about those things,” he added.
‘We cannot go to war’
Duterte has said that because of the Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of EDCA, he plans to implement it if he is elected president.
The US has insisted on multilateral talks.
“I just wanted to be clear on my stand on Spratlys. We cannot go to war. I will not waste lives, we are no match,” he told reporters.
Duterte insists that, in terms of military capability, the Philippines is a David to China’s Goliath. He also believes despite the country’s good relationship with the US, the US will not go to war for the Philippines.
It might be wiser, he has said, to work with China. After all, the international case has not stopped the Asian power from building more structures on atolls in the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte is even open to leaving behind the discussion over “ownership” of the disputed waters and pursuing joint exploration of its resources with China.
Other candidates approached
Earlier in the Rizal sortie, he said the Philippines could even ask China to sponsor the construction of large infrastructure projects in exchange for joint exploration.
“China, just build me a Mindanao railway and a train from Manila to Bicol, very good trains, and I will be okay with you,” he told an audience of around a hundred.
Asked if the US embassy’s request to meet with him is a form of meddling in the country’s affairs, Duterte said he doesn’t think so.
“Wala namang promises diyan eh. Shared issues yan eh,” he said. (There are no promises made there. These are shared issues anyway.)
It’s also “natural” for the US embassy to want to meet with possible future presidents of the country. Duterte said he believes all the other presidential bets were invited.
“Kinakausap lahat (They talk to everyone). Maybe I’m the one that made it public,” he said.
So far, none of the other presidential candidates have talked openly about meeting with the US embassy. – Rappler.com