Duterte Threats Not Threat To US-Philippines Military Ties
Duterte Threats Not Threat To US-Philippines Military Ties/ Photo: AFP

Agency report

Brigadier General Restituto Padilla gave the assurance. This followed the latest meeting of the two countries’ senior military officials to discuss defence cooperation till 2017.

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Duterte last month announced a “separation” from the United States. He has also called for the withdrawal of American troops from his country. That has put into question Manila’s 70-year-old alliance with Washington.

The Philippines leader  has also said he would end joint US-Philippines military exercises and called US President Barack Obama a “son of a whore” in response to criticism of his deadly war on drugs.

US-Philippines military ties ‘robust’

Despite Duterte’s threats, Philippines military chief General Ricardo Visaya and the commander of US forces in the Pacific Admiral Harry Harris met in Manila on Tuesday.

“The successful completion of the [meeting] ensures continued robust relations between the US and Philippines military,” Padilla told reporters.

“This highlights the enduring commitment of both countries to the US-Philippines alliance.”

Duterte
Philippines military chief General Ricardo Visaya (L) and US Pacific Command chief Admiral Harry Harris signing the activity list for US and Philippines military, during the Mutual Defence Board (MDB) meeting at the military headquarters in Manila. Photo: AFP

Padilla said the two military looked forward to closer cooperation in disaster relief, counter-terrorism, cyber-security and maritime security.

The two sides also discussed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, an accord signed in 2014 that allows greater rotation of US forces in the Philippines.

But Padilla declined to say whether Visaya and Harris discussed Duterte’s threats.

The new president’s fiery rhetoric has caused confusion in military and diplomatic circles. He has threatened to cut back on ties with the United States and vowed to create a new alliance with Russia and China.

Another attack on the US

Duterte again criticised the US in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a regional summit in Peru over the weekend.

But even with Duterte’s anti-American sentiment, Philippines-US joint exercises have continued to take place. And Harris said at a Washington event last week: “There has been no change in anything with the Philippines.”

The Philippines military has said it was awaiting guidelines from Duterte on whether the joint war games would continue to be held next year. The country hosts 28 such exercises annually.

His war on drugs has seen more than 4,700 people killed. This prompted the United Nations, the European Union and rights groups to raise concerns about alleged extrajudicial killings. It is a breakdown in the rule of law, according to them.

Duterte has insisted he is not doing anything illegal, but would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug users.