Goldberg: Erap fears of US hand in Duterte ouster ‘absurd’
This was how outgoing US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg described the apprehensions of Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada that the United States might oust President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Absurd. The US is a great friend of the Philippines, it respects the democracy of the Philippines, the process that has happened to elect the new President of the new administration, those are core beliefs of the United States,” he told reporters at Villamor Airbase after the turnover of the C-130 plane for the Philippine Air Force on Monday.
“Any statement in any way that we are involved in such thing is not right,” he added.
Estrada over the weekend revealed his fears that Duterte might suffer the same fate as he for associating with China over the Americans.
The Manila mayor was ousted in January 2001 after mass street protests following a halted impeachment trial on corruption charges against him.
Estrada claims the US government was behind it.
When Duterte visited China recently, he declared separation from military and economic ties with China. He later clarified that he did not mean to severe ties with US but would only pursue an independent foreign policy.
Goldberg said they are seeking clarification of Duterte’s recent statements, and they have sent two officials to discuss the bilateral relations of the two countries.
“Some of the language we heard is inconsistent with that friendship, with that alliance. We want to see exactly what it means, in fact that’s why Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel and US Defense Assistant for Asian and Pacific Security Kerry Magsamen are here to seek that clarification, what does it mean,” he said.
Goldberg said that the bond of the two countries are “unbreakable” in several ways.
“There are three and a half million Filipino-Americans; there are a couple of hundred thousand Americans who live in the Philippines. Our economic and commercial ties are extensive. The US is the largest foreign direct investor in the Philippines, the largest exporter from the Philippines is an American company, the largest private employer in the Philippines is an American company. Now they benefit from being in the Philippines and lovely workforce, and lovely people, serving those who work for them,” he said.
He also acknowledged Duterte’s previous statements on the killing of hundreds of Moros in Mindanao in early 1900s by the US colony, but said it was a thing of the past.
“We are all aware of history. We are all aware of what happened 120 years ago and we’re now in 2016. We are dealing with issues like climate change, war against violent jihadism and issues that threaten all countries — we’re dealing with issues like maritime security and maritime awareness,” Goldberg said.
“We’re dealing on a much different basis that we did in the past and so I would always say that we are gonna look towards the future and to the well-being of both our peoples,” he added. JE/rga