IT SEEMS the relationship between the United States and the Philippines couldn’t get any worse.
In the latest development, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered all US Special Forces to vacate the southern island of Minanao, where they had been assisting the country’s military in the fight against an extremist militant group.
Duterte said America’s presence in the region only worsened the situation, declaring: “For as long as we stay with America, we will never have peace.”
He’s since clarified that he’s not “cutting alliances”, but expressed a desire for the country to move away from the US and towards independence.
This is just the first in a series of upsets that suggest the relationship is approaching dire straits.
Duterte has also ordered an end to the joint US-Philippine patrols of the South China Sea.
“We will not join any expedition or (be) patrolling the sea. I will not allow it because I do not want my country to be in involved in a hostile act,” Mr Duterte told members of the Philippine Air Force at the Villamor Air Base earlier this week.
“I do not want to ride gung-ho style there with China or with America. I just want to patrol our territorial waters,” he said.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered all US Special Forces to vacate Minanao.Source:AFP
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said Mr Duterte should be questioned over why he doesn’t want to enforce the ruling of the court.
“I have been informed that the President of the Philippines has announced that the Philippines, as a claimant state and as the state that instigated the arbitration, has announced that the Philippines will not be sending their ships into contested areas.
“So the question should be directed to the Philippines as to what they are doing to reinforce the arbitration findings,” she told reporters on Wednesday.
She expressed surprise over the president’s new position, pointing out that the country is a claimant state in the disputed region.
Julie Bishop has expressed surprise over Duterte’s new position on the South China Sea.Source:Getty Images
But that’s not the end of it.
Duterte also said he is considering purchasing weapons and military equipment from two nations “where they are cheap and where there are no strings attached and it is transparent”.
According to Bloomberg, the most likely buyers would be China and Russia — the very nations the Philippines would have to fight against over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Duterte said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and “technical people” in the armed forces would visit the two countries in order to “see what’s best”.
Barely two months ago, the Philippines won a global arbitration case against China over the South China Sea.
The international ruling said the Philippines had exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea, and that China’s “nine-dash line” was invalid.
Buying weapons from Russia and China could affect Duterte’s position in the South China Sea.Source:AFP
Let’s not forget last week’s widely-reported incident, in which Duterte referred to President Barack Obama as a “son of a wh*re”.
Earlier this month, US National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said President Obama would not be holding a bilateral meeting with Duterte that afternoon.
Shortly after, Duterte bristled at warnings he would face questioning by the US president over a war against drugs in the Philippines that has claimed more than 2400 lives in just over two months.
“You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements. Son of a wh*re, I will curse you in that forum,” Duterte told a news conference shortly before flying to Laos to attend a summit.
“We will be wallowing in the mud like pigs if you do that to me.”
Duterte sparked widespread outrage last week after he called Barack Obama a ‘son of a wh*re’.Source:AFP
He later expressed regret for the acid-tongued comment, putting his comments down to a “strong” reply to questions from reporters. By this point, of course, the remark had already made global headlines.
“While the immediate cause was my strong comments to certain press questions that elicited concern and distress we also regret it came across as a personal attack on the US president,” he said in a statement.