Duterte Says Shift Toward China Will Continue After Trump Win

  • Philippine leader says the U.S. will remain a friend and ally
  • Says mutual defense pacts with the U.S. will remain in place

President Rodrigo Duterte declared Friday that he would continue to shift the Philippines toward China despite Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election.

At an early morning briefing in Davao, Duterte said that while the U.S. would remain a friend and ally, the Philippines’ foreign policy was now geared toward China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Rodrigo Duterte in Beijing, Oct. 20.

Photographer: Wu Hong-Pool/Getty Images

“I will pursue what I’ve started,” Duterte said following his return from a state visit to Malaysia. “My partnership with China and the rest of Asean will remain. I am not in the habit of reneging on my word.”

Duterte called himself “just a small molecule in the planet” compared with Trump. “He is now president of the most powerful country in the world,” Duterte said. “What we share in common is the passion to serve.”

In a state visit to China last month, Duterte announced a formal “separation” from the U.S. and said he wanted to pivot to China and Russia -- widening a split with his nation’s biggest security ally. Since being sworn in as president in June, Duterte has vowed to end joint military exercises with the U.S., called for American soldiers to leave the southern island of Mindanao, and told President Barack Obama to “go to hell.”

Maintain Cooperation

Even so, with the two countries still bound by several agreements including a mutual defense treaty, Duterte said the Philippines would “maintain our cooperation" with the U.S.

“It is still part of trying to play off the United States against China,” said Segundo Romero, a professorial lecturer in development studies at the Ateneo de Manila University.
“His anti-U.S. stance is a mix of sentiments against country and against its leadership."

In a statement on Wednesday, Duterte said he looked forward to enhancing Philippine-U.S. relations under a future Trump administration, adding that they were “anchored on mutual respect, mutual benefit and shared commitment to democratic ideals and the rule of law.”

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