U.S.-PH ties try reset after Duterte's 'pivot to China'
WASHINGTON D.C. - Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano signaled Wednesday night that bilateral ties between the Philippines and United States have normalized after the strain caused by criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal drug war and his decision to pivot towards China.
“I could feel the enthusiasm,” he told a mostly Filipino-American audience at the “Talakayan sa Pasuguan” on Wednesday evening. Earlier in the day, he met with U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson and key congressional leaders on Capitol Hill.
The “rollercoaster” is over, he said, echoing Tillerson’s observation that Philippine-U.S. relations are in an “upward vector”.
The ties between the two treaty allies took a pummeling after Duterte cussed at then President Barack Obama over his criticism of the mounting death toll in the Philippines’ war on drugs.
“I announce my separation from the United States both in military but economics also. America is lost,” Duterte declared during a visit to Beijing in October 2016, telling his hosts, “I realigned myself in your ideological flow…there are three of us against the world – China, Philippines and Russia.”
In July, Duterte described the U.S. as a “lousy” country after a Massachusetts congressman said he would oppose the Philippine president's still-to-be-determined visit to the White House, on President Donald Trump’s invitation.
Trump, meanwhile, is scheduled to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit being hosted by the Philippines from November 13-15. This year also marks ASEAN’s 50th anniversary.
“People behind President Duterte and people behind President Trump are keeping in touch,” Cayetano said.
“They admire each other and they admire each other’s leadership,” he added.
“Both of them believe they are strong, pragmatic leaders and there are real issues that call for difficult decisions but also effective solutions,” Cayetano said.
“We have communicated our strong desire for President Trump to take an active part in the 50th year of ASEAN and assured him of a very warm welcome in the Philippines,” he added.
Cayetano said he discussed with his counterpart a range of bilateral issues, including the “campaign against drugs, crime and corruption vis-à-vis human rights and how we can go on with the perception versus the reality.”
The also talked about counter-terrorism, the situation in Asia including the “balance of power and balance of forces”, as well as “what the U.S. has done to help with the (Philippine) military and how we can move forward with that."
“Americans are very comfortable with doing business with the Philippines,” Cayetano said.
But despite signs that relations are warming up again, the Philippine foreign affairs chief said speed bumps will remain on the road ahead. “Being both sovereign nations with sometimes diverging interests, there will be differences,” he said. - ABS-CBN News North America Bureau