US President-elect Donald Trump has expressed his support to the Philippine government’s war against illegal drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte said, after a “very engaging, animated” phone conversation on Friday night.
“The President-elect Trump wishes to extend his warmest regards to the Filipino people. And in just a few minutes, we were talking [about]a lot of things. He was quite sensitive also to our worry about drugs,” Duterte said of their conversation, which lasted about seven minutes.
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.
“He understood the way we are handling it and I said that there’s nothing wrong in protecting a country. It was a bit very encouraging in the sense that I supposed that what he really wanted to say was that we (US) would be the last to interfere in the affairs of your own country,” he added.
Duterte’s cordial demeanor toward Trump contrasted his expletive-laden tirades toward outgoing US President Barack Obama, who had criticized the Philippines’ bloody war on drugs.
The US State department and Obama had been at the receiving end of Duterte’s many rants over what he believes was Washington’s intervention in Manila’s internal affairs.
In October Duterte announced a “separation” from the United States and had called for the withdrawal of American troops from his country, putting into question Manila’s 70-year-old alliance with Washington.
Duterte invited to White House
But with the incoming Trump presidency, Duterte assured stronger ties with the US.
“And I said that, well, we assured him of our ties with America,” Duterte said, adding that Trump would be a good president for the US.
“I appreciate the response that I got from President-elect Trump and I would like to wish him success. He will be a good president for the United States of America. I am very sure,” he added.
Duterte also said Trump invited him to visit the White House next year.
“And he has invited me to visit New York and Washington, D.C., he said that if I’m around, he wants to be notified of my presence,” the President said.
In return, Duterte also invited Trump to attend the 2017 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit, which will be hosted by the Philippines.
“And I mentioned to him about the Asean Summit next year and he said that he will try his best to be here. He wants to attend the summit and that would be great for our country,” he said.
Duterte’s spokesman said the “understanding” between the two leaders signalled better Philippine-US ties.
“We can say at this stage that our relationship with the US is improving,” Ernesto Abella said.
The phone call came a day after the arrival of the new US ambassador to Manila, Korean-American diplomat Sung Kim, who said he was excited to improve ties between the two historical allies.