PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said he would continue the Philippines’ pivot toward China despite a change in leadership in the White House.
Speaking to reporters in Davao City following his official visit to Malaysia, Duterte said he would pursue an “independent foreign policy” geared toward China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
“I will pursue what I’ve started. I’m not into the habit of reneging on my word. My partnership with China and the rest of the Asean remains,” the President said during a news conference.
“I will sail the ship of the nation, and it should be pushed by the wind of self-interest only. The self-interest of our nation,” he added.
Duterte said the US, under incoming president Donald Trump, would remain a “friend” and an “ally” and agreements between the two countries would be honored.
“[The relations will remain] as is. We are friends and allies. We have [a]military pact … that would bind us in the matter of saying whether or not you side with this or that,” he added.
But Duterte reiterated his opposition to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the US, despite the fact that he had given the go-signal for it last Monday.
The EDCA, signed by the previous Aquino administration, allows the rotational presence of US troops in Philippine military camps.
“Let us put aside Trump here. Actually, in every military exercise, whatever, it is always America who learns much. Kokonti lang ‘yung sa Pilipino [Filipino troops learn very little],” he said.
The President explained that he only gave the go-signal for joint military exercises this year because the Defense department and US officials had already “firmed up” arrangements.
“But this will be the last time. And I expect that by the time I end my term, I do not want to see any, any, not only
US, even African or Chinese or whatever … I do not want to see foreign military troops in my country,” he said.
Duterte said the Philippines does not need other countries to train Filipino soldiers.
“By themselves, they are warriors and capable of a conventional war,” he said.
Duterte also downplayed comparisons with Trump, calling himself “just a small molecule in the planet” compared with the US president-elect, a billionaire property mogul.
“He [Trump] is now the president of the most powerful country in the world. I am just a President struggling to barely [rise]just above the water,” he said.
“I don’t think we [are alike]. Well, what we share in common maybe is the passion to serve. And it’s a given,” the President said.
Duterte earlier congratulated Trump for winning the 2016 US presidential race and said he would not pick a fight with the US following the latter’s victory.