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Duterte bares US Embassy invite to discuss China tiff

ANTIPOLO CITY—The US Embassy in Manila wants to know Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s plans with regard to the territorial dispute in the South China Sea if he wins the election and has invited him to a meeting to get his stand.

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“The American embassy would like to talk to me. I want to make this public because I feel lukewarm toward the United States,” Duterte told residents of Rizal province during a campaign sortie here on Monday.

Duterte on Monday noon paid a courtesy call on local officials led by Antipolo City Mayor Jun Ynares and 13 other mayors of the province.

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“I told them I would look for [a better schedule] this month,” Duterte told reporters when pressed for details on the US Embassy invite.

“They said they were not in a hurry,” said the mayor who has earned notoriety for his off-color language.

Asked if he considered it as meddling in the internal affairs of the country, Duterte said he saw nothing wrong with the invitation from the Americans.

Duterte said other candidates might have been invited, too. “I am the only one making it public because I want to make my stand about the Spratlys clear,” he said.

Duterte has been vocal about his position in the sea dispute, including the possibility of a joint exploration partnership with China in the energy-rich sea in exchange for helping the Philippines build its railway system.

‘US knew about incursions’

“I feel lukewarm toward the US,” he said, because the US knew about the Chinese incursions into the Philippine territorial waters early on but had acted only recently.

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The US is the Philippines’ lone defense treaty ally and one of its three strategic partners which include Japan and Vietnam, which also have sea disputes with China.

In previous engagements, Duterte and his running mate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, had criticized the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) between the Philippines and the US, saying the country had given the deal to the Americans for free.

The deal which was upheld by the Supreme Court early this year allows the United States access to Philippine military bases and to rotate its troops through the country.

In return, the US promises to help modernize the Philippines’ armed forces and build and improve military infrastructure and facilities.

Presidential candidate Mayor Rodrigo Duterte gestures during a speech at the Provincial Capitol of Rizal on Monday, March 7, 2016. INQUIRER PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

Presidential candidate Mayor Rodrigo Duterte gestures during a speech at the Provincial Capitol of Rizal on Monday, March 7, 2016.
INQUIRER PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

Duterte’s camp on Monday, meanwhile, said the Philippine flag would be in the mayor’s election campaign logo, saying “it represents the unity and aspirations of the Filipino people.”

Campaign adopts the flag

Lawyer Paola Alvarez, spokesperson for Duterte’s political party PDP-Laban, said Duterte wants to be seen with the Philippine flag in his campaign sorties, rallies and motorcades to unify the people amid diversity.

“We believe the flag should be the symbol of national unity even as we Filipinos come from different ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds, speak different languages and hold different religious beliefs,” Alvarez said in a statement Monday.

“We may be different in tribes. Our flag is the only thing that holds us together. We should help each other,” Duterte had said.

PDP-Laban president Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said Duterte believes the national flag rather than party or political affiliations should be the rallying point for Filipinos to unite in fighting crime, corruption, illegal drugs and joblessness.

Duterte is running for the presidency under a platform focused on fighting criminality and corruption.

But Duterte, who has been accused of human rights violations, has this to say on human rights.

“That human rights, it only emboldens the criminals. That is true,” Duterte said, eliciting a thunder of applause from the audience.

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TAGS: China, Elections 2016, Features, Global Nation, Rodrigo Duterte, US embassy
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