By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte is not angry with the United States but is “wary” about its style of diplomatic engagement.
The President talked about his “disappointment” with America, considered the country’s strategic ally, during an administration campaign rally in Koronadal City, South Cotabato Tuesday.
“During the campaign, I was not sure kung saan ako pupunta [where I will go] after the elections if I win, in terms of improving the economy. We were at the highest level of distrust with China and the Americans, also one disappointment to another, I would say,” Duterte said.
“Hindi naman ako galit [I am not angry with them] but I’ve always been wary about their – the way they would handle their diplomatic style,” he added.
Duterte said he had promised to promote economic growth but did not mention the “Build Build, Build” program during the campaign period. He thought of seeking “money from the outside” to bankroll the country’s infrastructure development. “That became later on the Build, Build, Build,” he added.
At the start of his term, the President moved to forge closer alliances with Russia and China, the traditional rivals of the US, after getting irritated over then US President Barack Obama’s criticisms of his war on illegal drugs.
Duterte once threatened to “break up” with America, cancel their defense pact and order the pullout of US troops in the country. But the tension eased when Duterte welcomed Trump’s election and called him a good friend of the Philippines. Recently, Duterte said US President Donald Trump was “cleaning the mess” left by his predecessor that strained relations between the two countries.
Early this month, the President sought to enhance the country’s trade and security relations with the United States during the visit of US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President highlighted prospects of stronger and more meaningful ties with the United States, particularly on defense and security, peace and order, regional stability, as well as the rule of law in the conduct of activities in the West Philippine Sea to prevent escalation of tensions among countries involved.
Duterte also discussed with Pompeo ways to further strengthen cooperation between the two countries in countering terrorism and violent extremism, according to Panelo.