Philippines officials have gone into damage control after controversial President Rodrigo Duterte said the country’s long-term alliance with the United States was over.
Leaving no room for doubt about where his allegiance lies, Duterte told business leaders in Beijing on Thursday,
“America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow.”
“And maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines, and Russia. It’s the only way.”
Since suggesting he would cut both economic and military ties in favour of moving closer to Beijing, Duterte has clarified his comments saying he was advocating a “separation of foreign policy” rather than “a severance of ties.”
U.S. officials said they have not received any formal Philippine notice of Duterte’s pronouncements, but if he makes good on his pledge, it could have huge ramifications for the two countries and the balance of power in the wider region.
The Philippines is a former U.S colony, with an estimated four million U.S citizens of Philippine ancestry. More than 220,000 US citizens live in the Philippines, including a large number of U.S veterans.
Moreover, according to the U.S State Department, over $25 billion in goods and services are traded between the U.S and the Philippines each year.
However, the historically strong diplomatic, military and financial ties between the two countries have soured following Duterte’s recent rhetoric and human rights abuses.
Duterte’s pivot toward China comes as relations with long-time ally, the United States, being at an all-time low.
The drift between Duterte and Obama’s relationship began when the U.S. President expressed his concern over human rights issues of President Duterte’s ‘War on Criminality and Drugs’, calling the US President a “son of a whore.”
Prompting strong condemnation from the United Nations and human rights groups, Duterte’s aggressive crackdown on drug crime has seen police, military and vigilantes kill more than 2,000 alleged drug dealers.