Since taking office at the end of June, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has made strident denunciations of the US, lashing out over Washington’s criticism of his bloody drug war and rebuking the US colonial legacy in his country.
Duterte has also repeatedly mentioned moving way from the US as an ally, a status Washington and Manila have had for more than a half-century.
In the days since the Philippine president’s arrival in China for a state visit, he has doubled down on breaking from the US and added to the insults he has directed toward Americans.
On Wednesday, to hundreds of cheering Filipinos in Beijing, Duterte said his country’s foreign policy would continue veering toward China. “I will not go to America anymore. We will just be insulted there,” Duterte said. “So time to say goodbye my friend.”
In a speech on Thursday, Duterte announced his country’s “separation” from the US, in terms of “military, not maybe social, but economics also. America has lost,” he said. He stopped short of saying he would revoke treaty commitments with the US, and the White House has said it has received no official requests to change its cooperation with the Philippines.
He accompanied that announcement with a mocking impression of how Americans speak.
“The Americans are … loud, sometimes rowdy,” Duterte said during the Philippines-China Trade and Investment Forum.
“And they have this volume of the voice in the larynx, not adjusted to civility,” he said in front of a crowd of Chinese businessmen and government officials, before launching into what appeared to be an impression of conversations he’s had with Americans.
According to Rappler’s Pia Ranada, Duterte’s speech had a decidedly anti-American bent, which his audience seemed to enjoy. He also called Americans a “discourteous people” and underscored his affinity for the Chinese.
“Duterte of the Philippines is veering towards China because China has the character of an Oriental. It does not go around insulting people,” Duterte said, eliciting loud applause.
The Philippine president is in China for high-level meetings and to facilitate talks between Chinese and Filipino businesses. Duterte took some 200 business people along with him to Beijing, and Philippine trade secretary Ramon Lopez told Reuters that $13.5 billion in deals would be signed.
Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jingpin agreed to reopen bilateral talks on disputes in the South China Sea, where Manila, Beijing, and several other countries in the region have clashed over territorial claims.
After Duterte met with Xi, China’s vice foreign minister said, “The two sides agreed that they will do what they agreed five years ago, that is to pursue bilateral dialogue and consultation in seeking a proper settlement of the South China Sea issue,” according to Reuters.
However, the vice foreign minister said the two leaders did not mention Scarborough Shoal, which China seized in 2012 and have since denied Philippine fishermen access to.
He did say that Duterte and Xi had agreed on coast guard and fisheries cooperation without elaborating, but
did not answer a question about if Filipino fishermen would permitted access to waters around the shoal.
China has dismissed an international-court ruling issued this summer that rejected its claims in the South China Sea, and Duterte has said he would not give up his country’s sovereignty.
But prior to their meeting, Duterte said that ruling was just a “piece of paper,” and that South China Sea arbitration would “take the back seat” during talks between the two countries. For his part, Xi said that issues not discussed during Duterte’s time in Beijing “should be set aside,” Reuters reported, quoting the Chinese foreign ministry.
Duterte’s meeting with Xi, and his statements about Americans, come a day after anti-American protesters and Philippine police clashed in front of the US embassy in Manila, leaving several people injured.
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