Philippine President wants to end military drills with US

Philippine President wants to end military drills with US

Manila, Sep 29 (IANS) Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wants to end joint military drills with the US to emphasise his country’s independence from that country, the presidential spokesperson said on Thursday.

Duterte on Wednesday announced his intention to put an end to the regular military exercises between the US and Philippine armed forces in a speech in Vietnam where he is on an official visit, EFE news reported.

“(Duterte) wants to mark the course of a free and independent Philippines … He sees it as something that will bring well-being and prosperity to the nation,” spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.

Although Abella seemed to be hinting at a shift in the country’s foreign policy, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay had clarified after the speech that Duterte was referring to joint patrols in international waters.

Duterte said the drill between the US and the Philippines starting from October 4 and 12 in Luzon and Palawan regions, with the participation of around 2,000 soldiers, will be the last ones.

In recent weeks, Duterte has been reaching out to Russia and China, and moving away from the US, a country that has historically been one of its major allies.

So far, both countries have maintained the same strategy against Beijing in the South China Sea territorial dispute, with Washington supporting Manila in modernization and training of its armed forces.

Although Duterte has assured that he will respect the military agreements that allow the US to use Philippine bases and increase its presence in the region, he has also expressed on numerous occasions his desire to seek a more independent foreign policy.

Bilateral relations have deteriorated since Duterte assumed presidency in June and began a violent campaign against drug trafficking, which has left more than 3,500 dead.

The President has come under severe criticism for his aggressive anti-drugs campaign from Washington and others.

In a counter-attack, he had denounced the hypocrisy of the US and protested against the massacres the latter allegedly carried out in the early 20th century in southern Philippines, which was once an American colony.

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