Cooling relations with US not a means to placate China, Russia — Palace
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is not looking to appease China and Russia when he vowed to “tone down” relations between the Philippines and the United States, Malacañang said Thursday.
Duterte vowed to reduce interaction with Washington on Wednesday and barred members of his Cabinet from traveling to the US, but his spokesman Salvador Panelo claimed the order was just a “protest” against America’s intrusion into the Philippines’ sovereignty.
“The decision on the ‘boycott’ is more of a protest sa mga ginagawa nila (US) sa mga kababayan natin (on what they are doing to our countrymen),” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
When asked whether “toning down” of the Philippines-US relations is a move to appease China and Russia, Panelo said: “Not necessarily.”
The Palace official explained that the Philippines should learn to rely on its own resources when it comes to securing itself from outside threats.
“It’s about time that we, as a country, rely on our own resources. We have to strengthen our capability in defending ourselves from foreign intrusions,” he said.
Since taking power in 2016, Duterte has repeatedly threatened to “break up” the Philippines’ long-standing alliance with the US, while pursuing closer ties with non-traditional allies Russia and China.
The current discord was set in motion when the US Senate last month passed a resolution seeking sanctions against Philippine officials involved in the drug war and the detention of Senator Leila De Lima, a Duterte administration critic who has been detained for drug-related charges.
The standoff also prompted Duterte to order the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the US and the Philippines.
The VFA accorded legal status to US troops who were rotated in the country for military exercises and humanitarian assistance operations.
Duterte ordered the termination of the military pact after the US canceled the visa of his longtime confidant Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who has also led his bloody war on drugs.
Dela Rosa, who was Duterte’s chief of police from 2016 to 2018, said the US Embassy did not explain why his visa was voided but he acknowledged it has something to do with alleged extrajudicial killings under his watch.
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