With Trump, PH-US ties to remain ‘as is’–Duterte
Philippine bilateral and defense ties with the United States would remain “as is” under the presidency of Republican Donald Trump, President Rodrigo Duterte said Friday amid comparisons made between the two ribald leaders.
Mr. Duterte said treaties would be honored and cooperation should remain. He stressed he did not expect the country to be dragged into a major international conflict “in the next 100 years.”
“We are friends with an ally. We have an RP-US military pact that was 1954, I think, vintage. That would bind us in the matter of saying whether or not you side with this or that,” Mr. Duterte told a press briefing upon arrival from Malaysia.
Mr. Duterte, often dubbed the “Trump of the East” for his fierce rhetoric and outrageous comments, has repeatedly railed at outgoing US President Barack Obama for raising concerns over the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. However, he appeared to soften when it came to Trump.
He congratulated the American real estate billionaire turned TV host on his stunning victory, and said he looked forward to working with him for enhanced relations. In a speech in Malaysia, he said he did not want to fight anymore because Trump was already there.
On Friday, Mr. Duterte said he was just a “small molecule in this planet” compared to Trump.
“Susmaryosep (Jesus-Mary-Joseph). He is now the President of the most powerful country in the world,” he said. “I am just a President struggling to barely [stay] just above the water… You have to worry about ourselves first.”
He however conceded he and Trump had the same “passion to serve.”
Politicians and pundits have predicted that the two leaders would get along because of their similar personality traits.
US troops out
But Mr. Duterte, who earlier announced the country’s economic and military separation from the US, said he still wanted foreign troops out of the Philippines before the end of his term. He said he would continue to pursue a partnership with China and Southeast Asian nations.
“And I expect that by the time I end my term, I do not want to see any, not only U.S., even African or Chinese or whatever, I do not want to see foreign military troops in my country,” he said.
He had earlier said the forthcoming joint military exercises between Philippine and US troops would be the last, but Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana subsequently clarified the drills would just be scaled back.
Joint drills on counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance, and disaster response would push through, Lorenzana has said, adding that an agreement for temporary basing rights would also not be scrapped.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Mr. Duterte was expected to find common areas of interest with Trump, when asked if the president would soften his anti-US rhetoric with the change in the US administration.
“From what we see, he will find common areas of interest, and then there will be a convergence on those common areas of interest,” Abella said.
As to the fate of joint exercises, Abella said “we’ll see how it develops.”
On Friday, Mr. Duterte downplayed the benefits of war games, saying they were one sided to favor the better-equipped Americans. He said he was looking forward to getting equipment from countries other than the US.
“We do not need any foreigners to train Filipino troops. By themselves they are warriors,” he said. “You know, this paradigm of hand-me-down, and I’ll tell the military and the police, stop it. If there’s nothing, let’s use bayonets, hand-to-hand combat.”
He also said Filipino soldiers did not need further training in convetional war and “I do not expect any war against any other nation.”
Meanwhile, labor secretary Silvestre Bello III said that business process outsourcing investors remained hopeful even with Trump’s election and his advocacy of protectionism.
Bello said he did not see any concerns yet that American BPO firms would immediately leave.
“None so far, because you can see the immediate results, even with the strong statement of President Duterte on an independent foreign policy. Foreign investments keep coming in,” Bello said.
“There are too many jobs. They could share. I am sure, some of the Americans will prefer to have their jobs here. Labor costs are lower here and that’s what they are looking for,” he said. —WITH REPORTS FROM JULIE M. AURELIO, FRINSTON LIM
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