MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte's pronouncement that United States forces staying the Philippines "must go" is neither a policy nor a directive, but a "warning," Palace officials clarified Tuesday noon.
READ: Duterte: US forces in Mindanao must go
"These were not directives to leave but these are contexts on why there are conflicts. It was simply an injuction, like a warning," Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.
Abella said there is no timeline as to when U.S. forces in the country are expected to pack their bags as Duterte was just "laying a notice" that it is not safe for American troops to be here because of the grudge Muslims have held against Westerners.
The president earlier discussed the March 1906 Bud Dajo massacre, where hundreds of Moros, including women and children, were killed by US forces in Sulu.
WATCH: Larawan ng ‘Bud Dajo Massacre,’ ipinrisinta ni Duterte sa ASEAN Summit]
The spokesman labeled the Bud Dajo massacre as a "skeleton in the closet that erodes the moral ascendancy" of the United States who had been criticizing human rights violations during Duterte's intensified campaign against illegal drugs.
Despite Duterte's unfriendly gestures towards the country's ally, Abella said the government is "not turning its back on anybody," but underscored that the president made it clear that he intends to push for "an independent foreign policy" where the Philippines will "charter its own independent course."
But for now, policies and treaties including the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) will continue "until such time things are properly acted on," he said.
"It is not a policy yet, nobody acted on it yet but is serves as notice," Abella said.
"The president has already painted a picture and let's just see how it unfolds," he added.