THE Philippines will remain an ally and friend of the United States, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday.
Duterte made the statement during his meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Malacañang, where they discussed security issues, including the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea dispute.
In his opening remarks during the meeting, Duterte assured Tillerson that the Philippines remained the “humble friend” of the US in Southeast Asia.
“I am happy to see you again and you have come at a time when the world is not so good, especially in the Korean Penninsula, and of course, the ever nagging problem of South China Sea,” Duterte said.
“I know you’re worried there because you also have domestic problems…We are friends, we are allies… I am your humble friend in Southeast Asia,” he added.
Duterte was joined by the some members of his Cabinet during the meeting, while Tillerson was accompanied by US Ambassador Sung Kim.
Earlier in the day, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte and Tillerson were expected to discuss the ongoing crisis in Marawi City and concerns about human rights in the Philippines.
“We expect the President to discuss with Secretary Tillerson a wide-range of relevant issues, including the security situation in Marawi, the global threat of terrorism, increasing Philippine-US economic and people-to-people engagement, the Balangiga bells, among others,” Abella told reporters.
“We also welcome the opportunity to address concerns, such as human rights if and when raised. We’ve always included this issue in our discussion and engagements with foreign governments, particularly Western democracies,” he added.
Tillerson arrived in Manila on Saturday to participate in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Regional Forum.
Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop, who will also participate in the Asean meeting, also paid a courtesy call on the President.
Both the US and Australia are providing assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in its efforts to retake Marawi City from Islamic State-linked Maute terrorists.