MANILA - The US believes the Philippines is "committed" to their long-standing alliance, even as President Rodrigo Duterte diversifies Manila's allegiances, Washington's envoy said Tuesday.
"My sense is that the Philippines’ government, starting with President Duterte, remains committed to the relationship. There’s mutual respect for the relationship and mutual appreciation for the importance of the relationship," US Ambassador Sung Kim told ANC's Headstart.
"Whether it’s in the alliance management or the robust economic partnership, all of the good work that the US Agency for International Development is doing here, I don’t think anything has changed," he added.
Duterte has repeatedly lashed out at the US for criticizing his war on drugs. He has also launched verbal attacks on former US President Barack Obama and Washington's ex-envoy to Manila, Philip Goldberg.
The President has also sought closer ties with Washington's rivals, Beijing and Moscow.
Kim said the United States was concerned over human rights globally and not just in the Philippines.
"We do have concerns about some aspects of the anti-drug campaign, but at the same time, I want to make clear that we completely understand that there is a serious situation here involving illegal use of drugs, and that the government is right to focus on this important problem, very serious problem for the Philippines," he said.
CORDIAL MEETINGS WITH DUTERTE
Kim was named ambassador to Manila a few months before Obama stepped down and before Duterte took office.
He said he encountered Duterte 6 times, describing the meetings as "very detailed, cordial, friendly, very substantive."
"He hasn’t cursed at me yet," he told anchor Karen Davila with a laugh.
"They have been very, very cordial discussions. He has a very good sense of humor, so we enjoyed that. And of course, he and I were both prosecutors, so I think we have that common background which helps in discussing issues like law enforcement," he added.
Kim said there had been no discussions on the United States' alleged meddling into the Philippines' or Indonesia's domestic affairs as Duterte had publicly claimed.