President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday called for defence and economic ‘separation’ from the US, in a speech before a Beijing economic forum.
The Filipino President made the statement after handing China a major diplomatic victory, agreeing to resume dialogue on their South China Sea territorial dispute following months of acrimony, reported AP.
“Your honors, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States … both in military and economics also,” Duterte said, as officials attending in the meeting applaud the move.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby in Washington said Duterte’s remarks were “inexplicably at odds with the very close relationship we have with the Filipino people as well as the government there on many different levels, not just from a security perspective”.
After dialogues between Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping, a senior Chinese diplomat, according to the report, announced the sides had agreed to restore the full range of contacts, although he said the leaders touched only briefly on the South China Sea.
“Both sides agreed that the South China Sea issue is not the sum total of the bilateral relationship,” Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters. The two sides agreed to return to the approach used five years ago of seeking a settlement through bilateral dialogue, Liu said.
That was followed with an announcement by Filipino trade secretary Ramon Lopez at a bilateral economic forum that his country and China will sign $13.5 billion of deals this week. He did not elaborate.
Following the announcement, Philippines’ Presidential Communications Office said Xi committed more than $9 billion in low-interest loans to the country, with about a third of the loan offer coming from private banks. About $15 million in loans will go toward drug rehabilitation programmes.
In opening remarks to his talks with Xi, Duterte hailed a warming of relations with China. “China has been a friend of the Philippines and the roots of our bonds are very deep and not easily severed,” he said. “Even as we arrive in Beijing, close to winter, this is a springtime of our relationship.”