Duterte to US: Are you with us?

The Philippine Star

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte has one thing to ask US Ambassador Philip Goldberg when the latter pays him a courtesy call this week.

“I would only ask the US ambassador, ‘are you with us?’” Duterte said.

The US ambassador, Duterte said, signified his intention to see him personally when his election victory became imminent.

The meeting between Duterte and Goldberg would mark the first time that the outgoing Davao City mayor would formally receive an American government official.

The US government drew the ire of Duterte after a British-American national facing charges for exploding dynamite inside his hotel room in 2002 was brought out of the country by US authorities.

Duterte is also against the conduct of the joint Philippine-US Balikatan exercises.

The incoming president also said he would like to get an official report on how China seized Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, noting that the takeover is depriving Filipino fishermen of livelihood.

“I would like to know from anyone in the previous administration why and how we lost control of Scarborough Shoal,” Duterte told reporters. “It means the loss of livelihood and security of the Filipino people.”

Panatag Shoal is 124 nautical miles from mainland Zambales, or well within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Chinese ships started occupying the shoal on April 10, 2012 after they prevented the Philippine Navy from arresting Chinese poachers who had harvested endangered marine species and corals.

Chinese boats accompanied by larger vessels have since barred Filipino fishermen from entering the area.

The Philippines, one of the weakest in the region in terms of military might, filed a diplomatic protest against the occupation but China maintained it has “indisputable sovereignty” over the area. 

The Philippines has turned to an international tribunal for help in reaffirming its entitlements in the West Philippine Sea and in stopping China’s seizure of areas within the Philippines’ EEZ.

Envoys visit

After taking a week-long break, Duterte yesterday began receiving well-wishers and supporters at the Matina Enclave Residences here. 

His visitors included Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua, Israel Ambassador Effie Ben Matityau and Japan’s Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa.

Duterte said he does not intend to travel outside Davao City until he is sworn in as president on June 30.

Zhao said he was looking forward to good bilateral relations in a Duterte administration.

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