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Rody changes tune, wants friendlier ties with US

After repeatedly cursing at the United States for supposedly meddling in Philippine affairs, President Rodrigo Duterte is now adopting a friendlier stance toward Washington as he acknowledged that the superpower has been helpful to the Philippines. PCOO/Richard Madelo

MANILA, Philippines — After repeatedly cursing at the United States for supposedly meddling in Philippine affairs, President Duterte is now adopting a friendlier stance toward Washington as he acknowledged that the superpower has been helpful to the Philippines.

Duterte said the American atrocities against Filipino Muslims during the colonial period – a topic he used to discredit US criticisms against his bloody war on drugs – are “water under the bridge.”

“It was bad enough there were foreigners and yet this has to happen. (There were) many other massacres especially in Mindanao and the Moros. These are all water under the bridge,” Duterte said during the 116th anniversary of the
Balangiga massacre yesterday in Eastern Samar.

Duterte said the US has redeemed itself on several occasions, noting that it helped the Filipinos fight the Japanese invasion.

“There are so many factors involved but I’d rather be friendly to them now because aside from these episodes… overall I think the Americans also redeemed themselves a lot,” he said.

“Bumawi naman sila (They made up for the things they did), and they have helped us a lot. Whether we like it or not, we were engaged here, challenged by the Japanese occupation and it was America who partly helped us, as an ally,” he added, referring to World War 2.

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“I would not say they were our saviors, but they are our allies and they helped us.”

Duterte also cited the US assistance to the Philippines’ war against terrorism.

“Even today, they provide crucial equipment to our soldiers in Marawi to fight the terrorists,” he said.

The President admitted that he was advised by the foreign affairs department to tone down his tirades against the US.

“I was under advice by the Department of Foreign Affairs that I would just temper my language and avoid cursing, which I’m prone to do if I get emotional,” he said.

But Duterte still mentioned some negative aspects of the US occupation, including the parity rights, which allowed the Americans to exploit the Philippines’ natural resources.

“They retained that right to exploit the wealth of the nation, side by side with the Filipino people. That was also a thing which most of our generation today would find… not the right thing. Bumawi naman sila,” Duterte said.

The Philippines and its traditional ally the US have had a rocky relationship since Duterte became president last year.

Duterte repeatedly assailed the US for allegedly interfering with the Philippines’ internal problems after some American officials called him out over the killings linked to his anti-drug crackdown.

Last year, the President threatened to “separate” himself from the US but officials later clarified that he was just stressing the need for an independent foreign policy.

As this developed, the United Kingdom has assured the Philippines that it is “absolutely behind” its campaign against terrorist groups.

The assurance was made during the courtesy call of UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to the Philippines Richard Graham on Duterte in Malacañang last Wednesday.

“President Duterte stressed that once the conflict in Marawi City ends, Mindanao could be a promising place for investments to come in,” a Malacañang statement issued yesterday read.

“Graham, for his part, said that UK is ‘absolutely behind’ the Philippines in its fight against terrorism.”

According to the statement, Graham informed Duterte that British investors “are encouraged to do business in the Philippines.”

During the trade envoy’s courtesy call, the President stressed his desire to further enhance the Philippines’ relationship with UK, particularly on trade and investment.

“President Duterte then guaranteed that foreign investors need not worry about public officials extorting money from them, as he vowed to put an end to corruption in the government,” the statement said.

More than 900 people have died since Maute terrorists laid siege to Marawi City last May 23. Officials claimed that the Marawi crisis is now in its final stages but have not provided a specific timeline for the operations.

Before meeting with Graham, Duterte received Marawi City children on an educational tour of the Palace.

The President urged the children to stay away from terrorism and to help him restore what was lost in the conflict-ravaged city.

He also talked about the situation in Marawi and promised to rehabilitate the city.

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