RELATIONS between Manila and Washington could be headed toward a “reboot” after Friday’s cordial phone conversation between President Rodrigo Duterte and US President-elect Donald Trump, a Palace official said.
“The conversation between President Duterte and President-elect Donald Trump went very well and it showed that there is a big possibility that we will have a reboot of [our]relationship [with]the United States,” Palace Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said over state-run Radyo ng Bayan.
“There are so many aspects in our relationship: military, people-to-people, education, among others,” Andanar added.
On Friday, Duterte said Trump wished him well on his anti-drug campaign, as the Republican billionaire “understood the way we are handling it and I said that there’s nothing wrong in protecting a country.”
The President, in a video message released by Malacañang, said Trump told him the Philippine government was “doing it (war on illegal drugs) as a sovereign nation, the right way.”
“I could sense a good rapport, an animated President-elect Trump. And he was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem,” Duterte said.
Duterte’s demeanor toward Trump contrasted with his expletive-laden tirades at outgoing US President Barack Obama, who had criticized the bloody drug war.
The relationship has since cooled, with Obama cancelling a bilateral meeting with Duterte at the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in September.
Duterte for his part ordered a stop to joint exercises and naval patrols between the Philippine and US militaries, and announced a “separation” of foreign policy from Washington.
Manila and Washington are treaty allies, with a Mutual Defense Treaty signed back in 1951. Both sides signed a Visiting Forces Agreement in 1998 that governs the stay of American troops during war games, and an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement in 2014 that allows the rotational presence of US soldiers in designated Philippine military camps.
The US considers the Philippines a major non-NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) ally.
The Palace has claimed that Trump invited Duterte to visit the White House next year during Friday’s phone call. Andanar said the visit had yet to be set.
There is also no schedule yet for the presentation of credentials of US Ambassador-designate Sung Kim, who arrived in Manila last Thursday, Andanar said.