Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he does not want to see any foreign troops in his country, and that the United States should “forget” a defense pact with Manila.
Duterte told reporters on Tuesday at the airport in the capital of Manila before leaving for Japan that if he stayed longer, he would not sign the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US.
As a counter to China in the South China Sea, the US and the Philippines enacted the EDCA in 2014, giving the US military rotational access to five bases in the Philippines.
Last month, President Duterte promised he would review the defense pact, and called for the withdrawal of US Special Forces from southern Philippines.
On Tuesday, Duterte said he is against the presence of any foreign troops in the Philippines.
“I do not want to see any military man of any other nation (in the Philippines), except the Filipino soldier,” he stated.
“That’s the long and short of it. I want an independent policy where I don’t have to accede to anyone else,” said the president, who is known for his candid talk.
“I look forward to the time when I no longer see any military troops or soldier in my country except the Filipino soldiers,” Duterte said.
In addition, he said Washington should stop treating his country “like a dog with a leash.”
During a visit to China last week, President Duterte announced a “separation from the US,” saying it applied to military and economic cooperation between Washington and Manila.
However, a day later, Duterte walked back slightly from the statement, saying he did not mean total “separation” from Washington. “But,” according to political analysts, “the point had been made.”
Despite the public snub, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter also insisted on Friday that his country intends to keep its alliance commitments to the Philippines.
On Tuesday, US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said Washington wants to continue its presence in the Philippines, and cited a need to curb militancy in southern parts of the country.
Ambassador Goldberg told ABS-CBN that the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group and several other militant organizations were posing a “very serious” security threat on the southern island of Mindanao.
Analysts say the United States is very worried after President Duterte’s pronouncement of his country’s “separation” from the US and deepening alliance with China.
“We see a very great change in Philippine policy. Instead of serving as a military base for the United States to attack China, I think they are going to reduce their military ties to the United States, and expand their economic ties with China, and as a result, I think, the US will eventually lose one of their key military outposts controlling China’s trade on the South China Sea,” American writer James Petras told Press TV on Friday.
Last month, the Filipino leader harshly criticized the US and President Barack Obama, and said he was not a “puppet” of America. “I am the president of a sovereign country and I am not answerable to anyone except the Filipino people.”
On Tuesday, President Duterte said he did not start a fight with Washington.
“You know I didn’t start this fight. They started it,” he said, referring to the controversial comments US Ambassador Goldberg made before the country’s elections in May 2016. Duterte won the election by a landslide.
“They started it, then came out the issue of human rights, the State Department, Obama, EU. They did this to me. Then they said, we will cut our assistance. So I said to them, ‘son of a b***, do not make us your dogs, as if I am a dog with a leash, and you throw some bread, where I can’t reach,’” he explained.