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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Duterte may 'break up' with US in the future

President Rodrigo Duterte might "break up" the Philippines' alliance with the United States in the future, MalacaƱang said on Wednesday.

Presidential spokesman Secretary Ernesto Abella, however, said there was still no move to end ties with the country's historic and strongest ally.

Duterte on Tuesday launched a fresh tirade against the US, telling American president Barack Obama to go to hell. He then hinted that he might "break up" with the US.

“Eventually I might, in my time, I will break up with America. I would rather go to Russia and to China. At least even if we do not agree with the ideology, they have respect for the people. Respect is important,” the president said.

Asked to clarify the statement, presidential spokesman Secretary Ernesto Abella said: "That in the future he might make moves. In the present, there are no moves yet."

"But in the future, he might," Abella said.

Pressed to give a concrete answer if the statement really meant the Duterte administration would eventually cut ties with the United States, Abella said, "He said that he might. It is not a definite yes or a definite no.”

Treaty allies

The Philippines and the US are treaty allies, having signed a mutual defense treaty in 1951 and a visiting forces agreement in 1998.

An executive agreement providing for increased rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines was signed in 2014. It also provided for the use of Philippine military facilities by US forces.

But Duterte has made increasingly hostile pronouncements against the US, saying he wanted to call off joint patrols and joint military exercises with American troops. He has bristled at criticism of his administration's crime war by the US, the United Nations, the European Union, and other international institutions, and has said he will pursue deeper ties with countries such as Russia and China.

Abella said Duterte was reiterating what he called the administration's independent foreign policy, anchored on non-intereference and a rules-based approach to the settling of disputes.

“The way he expresses himself, it is still that he wants an independent foreign policy. The breaking up may not necessarily be a breaking up of alliances in that way," Abella said.

"Going back, it is basically expressing an independent policy. That it is not exclusive, that it is inclusive, that we will not be held down by just one treaty, for example,” he added.

As the president’s statements are considered government policy, wouldn’t it be difficult to follow through on them if he made too many?

“It is impossible to quantify. Ganito na lang. It becomes policy when there is official action,” Abella said. —NB, GMA News

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