The United States seeks an explanation from President Rodrigo Duterte’s “separation” announcement of Philippines’ military and economic alliance from the United States, that left US officials ‘baffled.’
US State Department spokesman John Kirby said that the remarks were “inexplicably at odds with the very close relationship we have with the Filipino people as well as the government there on many different levels, not just from a security perspective.”
“We are going to be seeking an explanation of exactly what the President meant when he talked about separation from the US. It’s not clear to us exactly what that means in all its ramifications,” he said.
Despite of Duterte’s pushing back the US that led to their relations to hit rock bottom, Kirby seems to be unaffected.
“We remain rock solid in our commitment in the mutual defense treaty we have with the Philippines. That hasn’t changed,” he said, adding that he hoped the alliance would “grow and develop and deepen.”
Kirby also said that Daniel Russel, the top US diplomat for Asia, is traveling to Manila this weekend to hold conversations with government officials in the Philippines.
The White House spokesman Eric Schultz said on Thursday that the Philippine government has not officially asked to end any security or economic ties between the US and the Philippines.
“We have not received any official requests from Filipino officials to alter any of our many issues where we bilaterally cooperate,” he told the reporters.
A senior Obama administration official also told NBC News this week about the long history of diplomatic, military and financial ties between the two countries.
“The US-Philippines alliance is built on a 70-year history, rich people-to-people ties, including a vibrant Filipino-American diaspora, and a long list of shared security interests. We also remain one of the Philippines strongest economic partners; the current stock of US foreign direct investment stands above $4.7 billion.”
US officials are concerned about Duterte’s unpredictability, but say that despite his words the Philippines has not yet canceled military exercises or formally requested any tangible change in the security relationship.
The Philippines has maintained a defense treaty with the US since 1951, which promises that both countries would come to each other’s defense in case of an armed attack.
Philippine Officials: Not Turning Back to the West
Few hours after Duterte’s speech in Beijing, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said in a joint statement that the Philippines was not really turning its back on the West.
“We will maintain relations with the West but we desire stronger integration with our neighbors. We share the culture and a better understanding with our region.”
On Monday, Trade and Ministry Secretary Ramon Lopez who is also with Duterte in his visit to China, also told BBC that the Philippines would not be stopping trade and investments with the US.
“We are still maintaining relationship with the West, but we are reducing or doing away with too much dependence.”
Duterte’s foreign minister Perfecto Yasay has maintained that Filipino leadership is only seeking an “independent foreign policy” and that recent moves “do not mean that we are weakening ties with the rest of the members of the international community.”