US envoy leaving: 'I've never met warmer people than in PH'

MANILA, Philippines – Despite being called "gay" and a "son of a bitch" by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, outgoing US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg is leaving Manila soon with the best memories of the Filipino. 

"I've served on 4 continents. I've never met warmer and more friendly people than in this country," Goldberg said in a Rappler Talk interview with Maria Ressa on Thursday, October 20.

Goldberg, the US ambassador to the Philippines since November 2013, had previously served as ambassador to Bolivia (2006-2008); chief of mission in Pristina, Kosovo (2004-2006); and deputy chief of mission in Santiago, Chile (2001-2004). 

The Spanish-speaking diplomat also worked as consular and political officer at the US embassy in Bogotia, Colombia, and as political-economic officer in Pretoria, South Africa.

Reflecting on his 3-year stay in the Philippines, Goldberg said: "It is a wonderful feeling – the feeling toward Americans, the feeling to everybody, the welcoming that they give. I'll always bring that with me, too."

"And it's important to remember in all the hoopla about political events and geostrategy and the rest, that at bottom, the people of the two countries really, at this point, are so interconnected that that image of Filipinos and their friendship will stay with me as well," Goldberg said.

According to Pew Research, Filipinos have the most "favorable" view of the US based on a global survey of countries' attitudes toward the superpower. In 2015, 92% of Filipinos surveyed said they had a favorable view of the US compared to 54% for China. An earlier survey showed more Filipinos favor the US than Americans. (READ: Filipinos like the US even more than Americans do – Pew Research)

US envoy on Duterte's tirades

Goldberg is soon ending his tour of duty in the Philippines, and is set to be replaced by Ambassador Sung Kim.

Goldberg's departure from the Philippines had been scheduled even before Duterte took office on June 30. The White House, in fact, announced Goldberg's replacement as early as May 19.

It was while waiting for his replacement that Goldberg got a taste of Duterte.

To the point of calling him "bakla" (gay), Duterte has slammed Goldberg even on the campaign trail. This is because Goldberg, for one, criticized rape jokes after Duterte joked about the rape of an Australian missionary in 1989.

The senior US diplomat, however, said he is "used to it."

Goldberg, as US ambassador to Bolivia, was even expelled from his host country after the Bolivian president accused him of "conspiring against democracy and seeking the division of Bolivia."

Goldberg said: "You just have to be ready for these things. What I will say is that it's not necessarily me or anything that's said about me, but that in the US, when people hear that, they think about the Philippines and what they're thinking about the United States, and that's not a good thing, I think, for a friend and ally." (READ: Duterte rhetoric causes 'head-scratching' in US – envoy)

The outgoing US ambassador added: "I'm a diplomat. I'm not here on a personal adventure. I'm here representing my country." – Rappler.com

WATCH: Full interview with Ambassador Goldberg

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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