(Note: The last paragraph of this story has been corrected to more accurately report the quote attributed to US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, as well as clarify that it was said in the context of the need to continue the good relations between the United States and the Philippines regardless of the result of the May 9, 2016 elections. The correction was made at the request of the US Embassy in Manila.)
THE US Embassy in Manila on Wednesday said it has not scheduled any meeting with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who claimed that emissaries had invited him for a talk.
“At this time, no meeting with Mayor Duterte is scheduled,” Kurt Hoyer, press attaché at the embassy, said a text message when asked about the mayor’s statement.
The presidential hopeful on Monday disclosed that he received an invitation from the US Embassy to discuss his positions on issues related to US-Philippines relationship should he win in the May 2016 elections.
These include the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the US and the disputed Spratly Islands.
The tough-taking politician said there is a need to reveal the invitation because he was “lukewarm” toward the US.
Duterte has been vocal about his opposition to the military agreement, which allows increased rotational presence of US troops in Philippine military bases and building facilities to store fuel and equipment there.
On the dispute in the Spratlys in the South China Sea, the mayor said he would pursue bilateral talks with China if the Philippines’ ongoing arbitration case in The Netherlands goes nowhere.
Hoyer clarified that “the embassy routinely meets with a full cross-section of Philippine society and politics to discuss a range of issues of mutual interest.”
In an earlier interview with The Manila Times, US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg promised to stay out of Manila’s politics.
He expressed confidence that any candidate would want to continue the Philippines’ long-standing ties with the US to sustain economic growth and strong military defense.
“Our job and my job and also the job of the people in the US is to stay out of your politics and to let the Filipino people decide who is gonna be your President,” Goldberg said.
He said “continuity tends to be greater than change in these circumstances,” referring to the “very good relationship” between the US and the Philippines. “Regardless of who’s been president of the Philippines or president of the United States, we’ve always had good relations,” Goldberg said.