2016 PH-US war games will be the last – Duterte
HANOI – This year’s war games with United States military troops will be the last.
This was the vow of President Duterte as he promised to forge new trade alliances with China and Russia.
In his address before the Filipino community in Vietnam, Duterte said he was “serving notice to the Americans.”
“You are scheduled to hold war games, which China does not want. I will serve notice to you now that this will be the last military exercise,” he said.
“I’m serving notice now to the Americans. I will maintain the military alliance, the RP-US pact which our countries signed in the early 50s. But I will establish new alliances for trade and commerce,” Duterte said, adding that he won’t let the military’s grey ships take part in joint patrols.
His profanity-laced speech lasted for more than one hour and kept the Filipinos riveted, despite the fact that he was more than an hour late.
He also spoke of his plans to visit China and Russia “to open all doors of investment.”
The U.S. is the only country with which the Philippines has an existing mutual defense treaty.
‘I didn’t hear that’
When asked to clarify Duterte’s statement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said he did not hear the President say he would be putting an end to war games between the Philippines and the U.S.
“Don’t pressure me to comment on something I didn’t hear,” Yasay, who was sitting onstage when Duterte made the statement in his speech, said when repeatedly asked by reporters to clarify on what the President meant.
The two militaries yearly hold joint exercises, the most significant of which is the Balikatan exercises.
Yasay explained that the President made the declaration in the context of joint patrols with the U.S.
He pointed out that the Philippines has existing defense agreements with the U.S.
Sought for comment, national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the President likely referred to the war games in October as being last for the year and not for Duterte’s entire term.
This year’s joint military exercises were held in April. The next war games are supposed to be held in October.
Aside from promising to end the country’s joint military exercises with the U.S., Duterte also launched a tirade against his most vocal critic Sen. Leila de Lima, whom he referred to as Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre’s “best friend.”
The President also took potshots at U.S. President Barack Obama, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon and other international groups who have been criticizing him for his human rights record amid his anti-illegal drugs war.
“Instead of helping us, the U.S. and the European Union started criticizing me,” he complained.
He also reported to the Filipino community two problems: that of illegal drugs and the Islamic State’s influence in Mindanao through the Abu Sayyaf.
As his habit, Duterte admitted to deviating from a prepared speech, peppering his hour-long address with profanity and jokes to crack up the hundreds of Filipinos at the Intercontinental Hotel in Hanoi.
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