MANILA (UPDATE) – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday stressed the significance of the alliance between the United States and the Philippines, after he earned the ire of Washington this week for his homophobic slur against an outgoing US envoy.
''I will reiterate our strong alliance with America,'' Duterte said during a visit to troops in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Sur.
Duterte said over the weekend that he was irritated with US Ambassador Philip Goldberg and called him “bakla (gay)” for criticizing him during the election campaign.
State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said a Filipino diplomat was summoned "to clarify those remarks." She did not name the diplomat.
"The first, specifically on the remarks, we’ve seen those inappropriate comments made about Ambassador Goldberg. He’s a multi-time ambassador, one of our most senior US diplomats," Trudeau said.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Charles Jose yesterday confirmed that the Philippines' Charge d'Affaires in Washington DC was invited to the US State Department to discuss "the entire breadth of Philippines-US relations."
While he could not discuss the conversation, Jose reassured the public that the Philippines' relations with the US remain strong. He also emphasized that Duterte values bilateral relations with the US.
Goldberg, who is set to leave his posting in October, criticized Duterte during the campaign for joking about the rape of an Australian missionary in Davao City in 1989, and the candidate responded by threatening to cut ties with the US, the Philippines' most important ally.
Duterte said he is standing by his tirades against Goldberg, saying it was improper for the outgoing envoy to the Philippines to be making political comments at the height of elections.
''It's the truth anyway,'' he said.
Nonetheless, Duterte said his comments against Goldberg should not stand in the way of the good relations between the two Pacific allies.
He said militarily, the United States remains important to the Philippines. He said the Philippine government is looking to buy military equipment from quality manufacturers and the US is one of the few sources.
He said he is not inclined to buy from China or any other source "because we are not used to them."