MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte said US President-elect Donald Trump wished him "success" in his war on drugs during their first phone conversation late Friday, where the two leaders established "good rapport."
Duterte said he found it "encouraging" how Trump indicated that Washington would be the "last to interfere" in Philippine affairs, according to a transcript released by the Presidential Communications Office in Manila.
Duterte has repeatedly criticized outgoing US President Barack Obama after the State Department joined an international chorus of criticism over his bloody war on drugs that has left hundreds killed.
He has also signaled shifting Manila's allegiance to Beijing, Washington's rival for influence in the Pacific. During a state visit to China in October, he announced the country's "separation" from the US and ordered long-running war games stopped.
"I could sense a good rapport, an animated President-elect Trump. And he was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem," Duterte said of the call, which lasted over seven minutes.
"He understood the way we are handling it and I said that there's nothing wrong in protecting a country. It was a bit very encouraging in the sense that I supposed that what he really wanted to say was that we would be the last to interfere in the affairs of your own country," he said.
Duterte said he wished Trump success. The billionaire realtor and reality television star will assume office next month.
"He will be a good president for the United States of America. I am very sure,” Duterte said.
Duterte and Trump both won on campaigns that promised change and attacked the political elite. Their victories underscore a global rightist wave this year that includes the shock decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.
Thousands of suspected pushers and users have been killed since the Philippine National Police launched Oplan Double Barrel in July. The campaign aims to eradicate the drug problem in the country during the first six months of the Duterte government.
Duterte said Trump also extended an invitation for him to visit New York and Washington DC.
"He said that if I'm around, he wants to be notified of my presence. And I mentioned to him about the ASEAN Summit next year and he said that he will try his best to be here. He wants to attend the Summit and that would be great for our country," he said.