We need US for South China Sea – Duterte

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – President Duterte has apparently mellowed even further on his sentiments about the United States, reiterating yesterday he did not seek the pullout of American forces as the Philippines would need its ally in defending the country from intrusions in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

“I said there will be some time in the future that I will ask the US special forces to get out, almost 117 of them, better that you get out so that I can talk peace… and so I can show that you are not there,” he said in a speech before the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army in Mawab, Compostela Valley.

“I never said get out of the Philippines. For after all, we need them in (South) China Sea,” Duterte added.

Under Duterte’s administration, the Philippines has been trying to establish better relations with China despite the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s recent ruling that Beijing’s claims over the whole of the South China Sea through the nine-dash line did not have any legal basis.

On Sept. 12 in Malacañang, Duterte said he wanted the US soldiers to get out of Mindanao because they might be kidnapped. This was after he repeated his story on the Bud Dajo massacre to point out the Americans’ lack of moral ascendancy to talk about human rights.

After a few days, Duterte clarified in Bulacan he wanted American troops to leave Mindanao so that the government would have “space” to hold peace talks with Moro rebels.

Duterte said he was “not against the Americans” but Moro rebels were thinking they were  “maneuvering” the talks.

“That’s why I said (leave) Mindanao. I never said, ‘Go out’,” Duterte said.

Not ready for war

According to Duterte, the Philippines does not have enough equipment to fight a war with China.

“We do not have armaments. But we are also not ready to go to war with China. As far as I am concerned, I am against it. Because it will just be a massacre,” he said.

Duterte lamented that while the Armed Forces of the Philippines acquired fighter planes during the past administration, these planes did not have enough firepower such as missiles.

“The problem is they do not want to give us missiles. We got it from Korea, correct, but they won’t sell to us without the consent of America,” the President said.

“Our planes are for display, it had no missiles so we cannot use it. I really do not know what’s wrong with these Americans, on how they look at us… they look down upon us,” he added.

Yesterday, Duterte explained he had to bring up the Bud Dajo issue in various fora, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Vientiane, Laos early this month, to provide context on the history of Moro battles in Mindanao.

The Bud Dajo battle was described as a counter-insurgency action fought by the US Army against the Moros in the early 1900s during the Moro rebellion.

Duterte’s tirades against the US and its president Barack Obama prompted the American leader to cancel a scheduled bilateral meeting between them in Laos.

Duterte said the US should not be lecturing him on human rights vis-a-vis his relentless drive against illegal drugs because it had not done reparations for the Bud Dajo massacre.

Duterte also stated a number of times that the Philippines was no longer a colony of the US.

The President added the Philippines would chart an independent foreign policy during his six-year term.

Aside from the US, the United Nations and the European Parliament have also raised concerns over extrajudicial killings happening in the course of the drug war.

But the administration maintains the President and the government did not have anything to do with the killings and do not condone them, noting that the incidents of summary execution were already under investigation.

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