WASHINGTON on Thursday said President Rodrigo Duterte’s daily anti-US tirades were “contributing to greater uncertainty” in Philippine-US relations.
In his daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Duterte’s “string of unproductive rhetoric” was inconsistent with 70 years of strong diplomatic relations between Filipinos and Americans.
“[T]he string of counterproductive rhetoric… has injected some unnecessary uncertainty in the relationship between the United States and the Philippines,” Earnest said.
“And I don’t think I’ve been coy about the fact that we’d rather not see this kind of rhetoric from the President of the Philippines.”
In an economic forum in Tokyo, Duterte again declared his intent to expel US troops from the country over the next two years.
The President also said that he was willing to scrap defense pacts with the country’s longtime ally if necessary.
“I want, maybe in the next two years, my country free of the presence of foreign military troops,” Duterte told an economic forum in Tokyo, in a clear reference to US forces.
“I want them out and if I have to revise or abrogate… executive agreements, I will,” he added.
Earnest, however, said that despite his declarations, the US government has yet to receive any formal notification or communication from the Philippine government.
“We’ve received no formal notification along those lines,” he said. “So that’s why the news that’s been made out of the Philippines I would classify as rhetoric at this point.”
Earnest said Duterte’s statements were not indicative of the strong relationship between the US and the Philippines over the last 70 years.
“It’s not indicative of the seven-decade-long alliance between our two countries. It’s not indicative of the deep cultural ties between our two countries, particularly given the sizable Filipino-American population in this country [America],” Earnest said.
“It’s also not indicative of the kind of support that the United States has offered to the Philippines in the past,” the White House official added.
Earnest said for the last couple of years, the American military has mobilized an aggressive response to assist the Filipino people, to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of large storms in the country.
During the onslaught of Typhoon “Yolanda “that killed hundreds of thousands of Filipino citizens, the United States was one of the top donors and the first to respond to assist the victims of the deadly hurricane.
“That’s the nature of the United States’ relationship with the Philippines. That’s an indication of how beneficial this relationship has been to the citizens of both countries,” he noted.
Earnest said, US President Barack Obama’s decision to pivot towards Asia, particularly the Philippines, may continue even after his term ends, but expressing hopes that the White House will not see any kind of rhetoric from Duterte during the 2016 Apec Summit in November.
On Tuesday, the President resumed his anti-US rhetoric as he scored US State Department Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel by telling him that the US should not treat the Philippines “like a dog on a leash.”
Duterte’s belligerent stance against the United States has unnerved another close ally, Japan, which is worried about China’s expansion of control over the South China Sea.
In his visit to Beijing last week, Duterte promised the Chinese of his “separation” from Washington in the military and economic aspect, only to take back his statements upon arriving at Davao City, saying that he’s not severing our ties with the West.
Shortly after making remarks to “separate” with the United States, his economic managers sought damage control, with Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia saying that the President “isn’t an English major” and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez insisting that Duterte’s statements were “not realistic.”
On Tuesday, Duterte likewise urged foreign businesses in the Philippines who are worried about his deadly war on drugs to “pack up and leave” the country, but Malacañang declined to make any comment to expound on the President’s statements.
Washington and Tokyo are trying to counter Beijing’s encroachment in surrounding waters by forming partnerships with other territorial claimants in the region, such as the Philippines.
Not toning down on his anti-American slur, Duterte instead gave a deadline of “two years” to free the country from foreign troops and abrogate executive agreements, if necessary, to make them happen.