MANILA - Ahead of his first meeting with United States President Donald Trump, President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said the Philippines remains a best friend of the U.S.
Speaking before Philippine Marines troops, Duterte highlighted the importance of the ties between Manila and Washington, even though he continues to harbor negative views about the U.S.
“We remain to be the best of friends with the America. Most of you…some of you went schooling in America and I do not blame you if your sentiments really remained with the power who helped us for the longest time,” Duterte said during the 67th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Marine Corps.
Duterte earlier blasted former U.S. President Barack Obama for the latter's criticism against his administration's war on drugs. During a visit to China last year, Duterte announced the "separation" of the Philippines from the U.S.
His mood towards the U.S. has since changed when Trump became U.S. president. Duterte once claimed that Trump praised his anti-drug campaign.
The President, meanwhile, underscored the need for cooperation between Manila and Washington, citing the increasing tension in the Korean Peninsula.
“But the change of the situation now, the geography of the world is really changing. I just hope that [North] Korea will have the sense to avoid it because you know whether we like it or not, we remain to be friends, courteous,” he said.
The President also thanked the U.S. for its role in helping liberate Marawi City from Islamic State-inspired terrorists.
“Out of the gratitude to the U.S. for giving us the equipment, China for giving us the arms. Soviet Union (Russia) President Putin also contributed and Israel, and the others who lent us the equipment needed really to win the war,” he said.
Duterte and Trump will have plenty of chances to have a face-to-face as they are set to attend both the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam this week and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila next week.