US still an ally, say Duterte officials

LOCKING horns with President Rodrigo Duterte, an official who went with him in China said the United States “is still an ally.”

Duterte’s bravado in China did not go well either among senators who asked for a hearing on the “separation” of military and economic ties with the US.

Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar said the “United States is still an ally, it’s there, it’s in the Mutual Defense Treaty. Nothing’s being changed. We’re not abrogating any (treaty).”

Andanar said the “separation” is akin to a son leaving home to raise a family of his own.

“Our economic policy will just change and the change is all about opening our doors to other countries. That’s it,” according to Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella.

Abella said Duterte’s declaration was merely a wish for an independent foreign policy. He said the Philippines will continue to abide by its treaties and agreements with the US and other countries.

“This is not an intent to renege on our treaties and agreements with our established allies but an assertion that we are an independent and sovereign nation, now finding common ground with friendly neighbors with shared aspirations in the spirit of mutual respect, support and cooperation,” Abella added.

US State Department spokesman John Kirby said Duterte’s remarks are “inexplicably at odds with the very close relationship.” “We are going to be seeking an explanation of exactly what the President meant when he talked about separation from us.”

During a meeting with the Filipino community at the Philippine-China Trade and Investment Forum, Duterte announced “my separation from the US; militarily, (but) not socially, (and) economically.”

Meanwhile, Senators Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, Leila de Lima, Franklin Drilon and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Friday sought clarification on Duterte’s move to cut military and economic ties with the US.

The indignant senators noted that while Duterte was “the chief architect of Philippine foreign policy,” he shared with the Senate the power to revoke treaties.

“Taking the President’s statement literally entails an abrogation of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States, a binding security and military agreement,” they said. “The Senate needs to be clarified if the President did indeed intend to terminate the MDT.”