Phi­lip­pi­ne of­fi­ci­als seek cla­ri­ty af­ter Du­ter­te sug­gests end of US exer­ci­ses

Times of Suriname - - ENGELS -

PHILIPPINES - Phi­lip­pi­ne of­fi­ci­als said yes­ter­day they we­re awai­ting cla­ri­fi­ca­ti­on from Pre­si­dent Ro­dri­go Du­ter­te about mi­li­ta­ry exer­ci­ses with US for­ces af­ter he pro­mi­sed to ho­nor their de­fen­se tre­a­ty, but de­cla­red joint war ga­mes would cea­se. The ma­ve­rick for­mer Phi­lip­pi­ne may­or fa­mous for his un­pre­dic­ta­bi­li­ty and ter­se rhe­to­ric, on Wed­nes­day told Fi­li­pi­nos in Viet­nam that joint ma­ri­ne drills with next week would be “the last”, a com­ment he slow­ly re­pe­a­ted. His re­marks ga­ve one of the clea­rest signs yet of his wil­ling­ness to test the li­mits of a his­to­ric al­li­an­ce that has pro­vi­ded im­por­tant de­fen­se sup­port for the Philippines. Vi­si­ting Viet­nam’s lea­der­ship on Thurs­day, Du­ter­te did not speak to me­dia but his fo­reign se­cre­ta­ry, Per­fec­to Yasay, said long­stan­ding tre­a­ties with the Uni­ted Sta­tes would be ho­no­red. He said exer­ci­ses with US for­ces plan­ned for 2017 would go ahead, be­cau­se they we­re agreed by the pre­vious govern­ment, whi­le tho­se from 2018 on­wards would be re­vie­wed. But he said the Philippines did not want a mi­li­ta­ry al­ly and sought di­ver­si­fied re­la­ti­ons and no ene­mies. The Uni­ted Sta­tes em­bas­sy in Ma­ni­la said it had not re­cei­ved any of­fi­ci­al no­ti­ce from the Phi­lip­pi­ne govern­ment on the ter­mi­na­ti­on of joint exer­ci­ses. Phi­lip­pi­ne fo­reign mi­ni­stry spo­kes­man Char­les Jo­se said it was pos­si­ble that a Vi­si­ting For­ces Agree­ment bet­ween the Philippines and the Uni­ted Sta­tes could be abro­ga­ted, but that would be up to Du­ter­te.

“No one could cla­ri­fy what the pre­si­dent re­al­ly wants,” he told re­por­ters. The De­fen­se of National De­fen­se (DND) said it was see­king guid­an­ce from the pre­si­dent. “The DND will await fur­ther or­ders from Pre­si­dent Ro­dri­go R. Du­ter­te,” it said in a sta­te­ment, ad­ding its de­fen­se se­cre­ta­ry would “seek mo­re cla­ri­fi­ca­ti­on and guid­an­ce”. “As sta­ted ear­lier, all agree­ments and tre­a­ties with the U.S. are still in ef­fect,” it said in a sta­te­ment. Yasay said Du­ter­te’s ru­ling out of joint ma­ri­ti­me pa­trols with the Uni­ted Sta­tes had been mis­in­ter­pre­ted, and he was re­fer­ring on­ly to exer­ci­ses in wa­ters dis­pu­ted by both the Philippines. Du­ter­te swept an elec­ti­on in May on a pro­mi­se to get tough on cri­me, and in par­ti­cu­lar to wi­pe out drugs. He ini­ti­al­ly ap­pe­a­red to ha­ve been in­fu­ri­a­ted by a U.S. ex­pres­si­on of con­cern about his bloody crack­down on drug dea­lers and he re­fer­red to Pre­si­dent Barack Oba­ma as a “son of a bitch” on the eve of a plan­ned mee­ting at an sum­mit in La­os this month. (Reu­

Philippines Pre­si­dent Ro­dri­go Du­ter­te ar­ri­ves at Noi Bai In­ter­na­ti­o­nal Air­port in Ha­noi, Viet­nam. (Pho­to: Reu­

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