MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte will “respect” an agreement allowing increased American military presence in the country and his decision to remove US troops in the south did not indicate a policy shift, his foreign secretary said Tuesday.
The President wanted US Special Forces out of Mindanao to protect them from a kidnapping threat by the extremist group Abu Sayyaf, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. told ANC.
Duterte’s statement came one week after US President Barack Obama cancelled their meeting on the sidelines of a Southeast Asian leaders’ summit in Laos. The Philippine leader had threatened to curse at his American counterpart if the latter questions his bloody war on drugs.
“He will respect all treaty agreements or arrangement with any nations, including America, including the EDCA, which the Supreme Court held as valid,” Yasay said.
“I would like to assure our Filipino people, there is no shift in so far as our policy is concerned, with respect to our close friendship with the Americans,” he added.
Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino, forged the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with Obama in 2014 as he sought to strengthen Manila’s treaty alliance with Washington in the face of China’s assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea.
Duterte was not cutting ties with the international community when he directed his administration to pursue an "independent foreign policy, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
"He wants full and equal partnership with other nations," Abella told DZMM.
"Hindi natin ina-isolate ang sarili natin. Sinasabi lang natin na we are coming out of the shadows of other big nations. We are our own selves [We are not isolating ourselves. We are only saying that we are coming our we are coming out of the shadows of other big nations. We are our own selves]," he added.