A furious President Rodrigo Duterte early on Saturday told the United States to expect the eventual abrogation of a military agreement after Washington deferred a new aid package for the Philippines.
In a news conference following his arrival in Davao City from his state visits to Cambodia and Singapore, Duterte reiterated that the Philippines “can survive without American money.”
“You know, America, you might also be put to notice. Prepare to leave the Philippines. Prepare for the eventual repeal or the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement,” Duterte said, referring to the 1998 pact that governs the presence of American troops in the country.
His statement came three days after the US aid agency Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) deferred a new multi-year development aid package for the Philippines over alleged human rights violations in relation to Duterte’s anti-drug war.
Duterte said the withholding of aid to the Philippines was a “last-ditch effort” of outgoing US President Barack Obama before he steps down from office next month.
The Philippines received $434 million in MCC funding from 2010 to 2016. Countries can only qualify if they “demonstrate a commitment to just and democratic governance, investments in its people, and economic freedom,” according to the corporation’s website.
“We are glad that we are freed from proving anything to the United States. We do not need the money. China said they will provide so many…and we will give you the money. So, bye-bye, America, and work on the protocols that would eventually move you out from the Philippines,” Duterte added, while waving his right hand in the air.
The President also stressed that since the Supreme Court had declared that the Visiting Forces Agreement is an executive agreement and not a treaty, he would “decide soon” to repeal it.
The VFA, signed by Manila and Washington in 1998, accorded legal status to thousands of American troops deployed to the country for military exercises and humanitarian assistance.
“What is your purpose in this Visiting Forces Agreement? We will never be ready to fight with China. It is you who is egging a fight there. We will never fight with Russia. That’s too far away and besides, we are friends,” Duterte said.
But in the same speech, Duterte said he might defer his decision on the military agreement out of respect for US President-elect Donald Trump.
Duterte said Trump was “very nice” and “very courteous” during their phone conversation on December 3.
He said he would “reassess” the situation once Trump becomes US president on January 20.
The President revealed that he rooted for Trump over Obama’s candidate Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election.
“Actually in the liking of my character, it was really Trump all along, and you can ask them. Because I like his mouth,” Duterte said.
But he said he did not expect improvement in his relations with the US under a Trump presidency.
“It’s the timing actually. If I will still get the raw end of all of these things…I’m not inclined to side with you [US] anymore,” the President added.
Russia, China to fill the gap
At any rate, the Philippines can turn to Moscow and Beijing for aid as well as arms, Duterte said.
“China communicated to us. They’re giving us $50 billion. So what do I need America for? They do not look at us kindly. We have this huge problem and you exacerbate it. Actually we do not need it. We can survive without American money,” he said.
China has also offered to donate arms to the Philippines, while Russia is eyeing a “buy one, take one” arms deal, he said.
Prior to Duterte’s latest tirade, he had threatened to bar all foreign troops in the country in the next two years.
“I do not want to see foreign military troops for that matter. Not only American, Canadian or whatever, Australian. I do not want them in my country. I have so many uniformed men already,” he said.