Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘on-again, off-again’ relationship with the U.S. may be ‘on-again’ for the time being, maybe.
On Friday, Duterte said that he was not severing ties with the United States, a long-time ally of his country, contrary to what he had said just a day before. The Philippines president said that he was merely pursuing a more independent foreign policy by strengthening relations with countries like China.
“It is not a severance of ties. when you say severance of ties, you cut diplomatic relations. I cannot do that,” Duterte told reporters at a news conference at midnight in the city of Davao. “It’s in the best interest of my countrymen to maintain that relationship.
Just a day earlier, the Philippines leader had caused headlines when he announced his “separation” from the U.S. Speaking to Chinese and Philippine business people at a form in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, he had announced that America had “lost now,” and that “I announce my separation from the United States.” He also added that he would seek closer ties with Russia.
Addressing his earlier comments, he said that he meant that Philippine’s foreign policy need not always follow that of Washington. “As in separation, what I was really saying was separation of foreign policy. In the past, and until I became president, we always follow what the United States would give the cue.”
On the other side of the globe, the White House responded, “Based on his extensive, colorful previous comments, there is greater clarity that we would like to get about the intent of President Duterte and his government. But based on what you’ve read me that seems to be a change in tone that is more consistent with the seven decade long alliance between the United States and the Philippines.” according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest during the daily news briefing.
Duterte’s new ‘clarification’ comes after officials in Manila appeared to be scrambling to explain the latest comments from their president, who seems to be increasingly making aggressive comments toward the U.S. Trade Minister Ramon Lopez had told CNN Philippines, “In terms of economic (ties), we are not stopping trade, investment with America.”
Josh Earnest earlier had dubbed Mr. Lopez ‘the Filipino Mike Pence,’ a clear jab at the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Ernesto Abella, Duterte’s spokesperson, said that the Philippines leader had been making a “restatement” of his bid to chart an independent foreign policy, and that the president wanted to “separate the nation from dependence on the U.S. and the West, and rebalance economic and military relations with Asian neighbors,” Abella said in a written statement.