Obama congratulates Duterte via phone

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - May 18, 2016 - 9:24am

MANILA, Philippines — The White House confirmed that United States President Barack Obama personally congratulated presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte through a phone call.

This is the first conversation between Obama and Duterte since the latter declared victory in the May 9 elections.

"President Obama noted that the successful election and record voter participation were emblematic of the Philippines’ vibrant democracy," the White House said in a statement released on Tuesday.

The White House added that Obama highlighted the enduring values between the Philippines and the US that hold its alliance such as their shared commitments to democracy, human rights, rule of law and inclusive economic growth.

"The two leaders affirmed their interest in seeing the relationship continue to grow on the basis of these shared principles," the White House said.

The US had earlier extended its well wishes to Duterte and praised the conduct of the recent general elections.

US Department of State Elizabeth Trudeau noted that the record-setting 81.62-percent voter turnout is a testament to the Philippines' democracy.

Meanwhile, US Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes acknowledged the controversy over some of Duterte's past statements but he said the US wanted to build on the "good progress" made between the allies under the outgoing administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

"For us, the priorities will remain the security and prosperity of the Philippines. We'll want to see continued efforts in the Philippines in respect of rule of law and to combat corruption, just as we support those types of efforts across Asia and around the world," Rhodes told the Center for a New American Security think tank.

The historically tumultuous relationship between the US and its former colony has thrived in recent years as the Philippines has turned to Washington for support against an assertive China with which the Philippines has territorial disputes in the South China Sea. — with reports from Associated Press

READ: Analyst: Duterte will have difficult balancing act with China, US

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