THOSE who may have feared that President Duterte is leading the Philippines away from its close relations with the United States may be having second thoughts now that he has had a talk with United States President-elect Donald Trump.
President Duterte was free with his usual coarse language when he recently rejected President Barack Obama’s expression of concern over his anti-drug campaign. Subsequently, he announced an end to joint military exercises with American troops, although he later modified this stand to say that the next joint exercises will focus not on repelling some invading country but on terrorism and corruption. During his state visit to China, he declared he was ready to join China and Russia in an alliance against the world.
Last Friday, President Duterte called President Trump to congratulate him on his election and the two appeared to have reached a level of understanding that was not there with the previous US president. Where Obama had said Duterte must carry out his drug war “the right way” – referring to possible human rights violations – Trump told Duterte he was doing it precisely “the right way.”
President Duterte later commented he could “sense a good rapport” with Trump, who invited him to visit New York and Washington, DC, and Duterte in turn invited him to the Philippines when it hosts the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit next year. The conversation may signal a change in President Duterte’s hostile attitude to the White House, according to presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella.
The US has also sent a new ambassador, Sung Kim, who does not fit the mold of the usual American diplomat. On his first speaking engagement Saturday night, he came in plain white shirt, slacks, and loafers without socks. He and President Duterte should get along well.
We are all for developing closer relations with other countries, especially China and Russia, but have all along expressed the hope that this will not be at the expense of our long and close relationship with the United States.
With Duterte’s cordial conversation with Trump last Friday, it looks like the Philippines will continue to work closely with the US as it carries out its independent foreign policy.