Duterte aligns Philippines with China, says U.S. has lost

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony held in Beijing, China October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony held in Beijing, China October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool

By Ben Blanchard | BEIJING Thu Oct 20, 2016 | 3:48pm EDT

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced his “separation” from the United States on Thursday, declaring he had realigned with China as the two agreed to resolve their South China Sea dispute through talks.

Duterte made his comments in Beijing, where he is visiting with at least 200 business people to pave the way for what he calls a new commercial alliance as relations with longtime ally Washington deteriorate.

“In this venue, your honors, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States,” Duterte told Chinese and Philippine business people, to applause, at a forum in the Great Hall of the People attended by Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

“Both in military, not maybe social, but economics also. America has lost.”

Duterte’s efforts to engage China, months after a tribunal in the Hague ruled that Beijing did not have historic rights to the South China Sea in a case brought by the previous administration in Manila, marks a reversal in foreign policy since the 71-year-old former mayor took office on June 30.

His trade secretary, Ramon Lopez, said $13.5 billion in deals would be signed during the China trip.

“I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world – China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way,” Duterte told his Beijing audience.

Duterte’s remarks will prompt fresh concern in the United States, where the Obama administration has seen Manila as an important ally in its “rebalance” of resources to Asia in the face of a rising China.

The administration agreed a deal with Duterte’s predecessor granting U.S. forces rotational access to bases in the Philippines and further doubts will be raised about the future of this arrangement.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department said it was “baffled” by Duterte’s comments and would seek an explanation when Daniel Russel, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, visits Manila this weekend.

“We are going to be seeking an explanation of exactly what the president meant when he talked about separation from the U.S.,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby. “It’s not clear to us exactly what that means in all its ramifications.”

Both the State Department and the White House portrayed Duterte’s comments as being at odds with the close, long-standing alliance between the two countries. They said Washington would welcome closer ties between Beijing and Manila, however.

“The U.S.-Philippine alliance is built on a 70-year history, rich people to people ties and a long list of shared security concerns,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters, noting that the administration has not received any request from Filipino officials to alter bilateral cooperation.

A few hours after Duterte’s speech, his top economic policymakers released a statement saying that, while Asian economic integration was “long overdue”, that did not mean the Philippines was turning its back on the West.

“We will maintain relations with the West but we desire stronger integration with our neighbors,” said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia in a joint statement. “We share the culture and a better understanding with our region.”


China has pulled out all the stops to welcome Duterte, including a marching band complete with baton-twirling band master at his official greeting ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People, which is not extended to most leaders.

President Xi Jinping, meeting Duterte earlier in the day, called the visit a “milestone” in ties.

Xi told Duterte that China and the Philippines were brothers and they could “appropriately handle disputes”, though he did not mention the South China Sea in remarks made in front of reporters.

“I hope we can follow the wishes of the people and use this visit as an opportunity to push China-Philippines relations back on a friendly footing and fully improve things,” Xi said.

Following their meeting, during which Duterte said relations with China had entered a new “springtime”, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said the South China Sea issue was not the sum total of relations.

“The two sides agreed that they will do what they agreed five years ago, that is to pursue bilateral dialogue and consultation in seeking a proper settlement of the South China Sea issue,” Liu said.

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

In 2012, China seized the disputed Scarborough Shoal and denied Philippine fishermen access to its fishing grounds.

Liu said the shoal was not mentioned and he did not answer a question about whether Philippine fishermen would be allowed there. He said both countries had agreed on coastguard and fisheries cooperation, but did not give details.


Duterte’s tone towards Beijing is in stark contrast to the language he has used against the United States, after being infuriated by U.S. criticism of his bloody war on drugs.

He has called U.S. President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch” and told him to “go to hell”, while alluding to severing ties with the old colonial power.

On Wednesday, to the cheers of hundreds of Filipinos in Beijing, Duterte said Philippine foreign policy was veering towards China.

“I will not go to America anymore. We will just be insulted there,” Duterte said. “So time to say goodbye my friend.”

The same day, about 1,000 anti-U.S. protesters gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Manila calling for the removal of U.S. troops from the southern island of Mindanao.

Duterte’s abrupt pivot from Washington to Beijing is unlikely to be universally popular at home, however. On Tuesday an opinion poll showed Filipinos still trust the United States far more than China.

Duterte on Wednesday said the South China Sea arbitration case would “take the back seat” during talks, and that he would wait for the Chinese to bring up the issue rather than doing so himself.

Xi said issues that could not be immediately be resolved should be set aside, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

China has welcomed the Philippines approaches, even as Duterte has vowed not to surrender any sovereignty to Beijing, which views the South China Sea Hague ruling as null and void.

China has also expressed support for his drug war, which has raised concern in Western capitals about extrajudicial killing.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Arshad Mohammed and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Writing by Michael Martina and Ryan Woo; Editing by Nick Macfie, Alex Richardson and Grant McCool)

Source: Reuters “Duterte aligns Philippines with China, says U.S. has lost”

Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


8 Comments on “Duterte aligns Philippines with China, says U.S. has lost”

  1. Ks says:

    “In 2012, China seized the disputed Scarborough Shoal and denied Philippine fishermen access to its fishing grounds.”

    Wrong. It was the Philippines who started barring Chinese fishermen to fish in the area which had been the open fishing ground for the fishermen of both countries. That happened after the Obama’s pivot to Asia. China thus retaliated and turned the table around.


  2. Simon says:

    The SCS dispute should not be part of the discussion for closer ties between China and Phillipines. China should not make any concession in allowing Fllipino fishermen back to Scarborough Shoal, by doing so is respecting the illegal PCA. China siezed complete control over the shoals because Phillipines attempte to seize control failed. In effect it was a war without gunfire which Phillipines lost. There is enough in the plate for Phillipines to improve relations that is far more important to them such as tourism, import oftheir fruits, economic loans and support for cracking down on crimes. Fishing rights don’t count much compare to the other benefits for the Phillipines but concession by China allowing Fillipino fishing rights weakens wider Chinese claims to the SCS and the international community will interprete this as China meakly accepting the Hague ruling. That is not the message China want to send. If this happens other countries will make trouble such as Vietnam in the Paracel, launch its own court case and then sooth relations later so that its fishermen can undermine Chinese soveriegnty by being allowed to fish in Chinese territories.
    The only chance Fillipino fishermen are allowed back is to recognise Chinese sovereignty. If the plight of these fishermen is of so much concern then they can work for a Chinese fishery company and return back to the shoal to fish as employees of the country that administer the shoals. The Phillipines can take it or leave it.


  3. Simon says:

    The U.S.-Philippine alliance is built on a 70-year history of master & slave relationship. It is Gwailos telling their littel brown men what to do and taking theor country for granted. Americans can fo to Phillipines without visas as if they are travelling within their own country while Fillipinos needed a visa and often declined one which Duteret found out for himself when he was denied a visa to study in America, now Duterte is giving that back to America how they humiliated him. Unlike India’s Modi who was humiliated by America because the yanks labelled him as a threat to its own ideology and denied him a visa but once he became PM Mr Modi show how spineless he was by kowtowing to the Americans. Seems like Modi want India to be America’s little brown boys.


  4. johnleecan says:

    One of the funniest articles written. Americans baffled by Duterte. Duterte saying he won’t visit USA since he’ll be insulted by the Americans. Is this Duterte’s way of preempting the Americans?

    With decades of American propaganda, brainwashing, lies, deceit, and manipulation, it will be an insurmountable task for China to gain the trust of Filipinos. Filipinos are obsessed with almost anything American.


    • Simon says:

      Fillipinos needed to wake up. Americans are not obsessed with Fillipinos. Misguided hero worshipping of foreigners makes one devalue your own kind. Just look at the “Localists” in HK they are a disgrace and looked down by everyone westerners included.


    • Sentinel says:

      Not funny really. Mr Duterte knows he will be treated with contempt, prejudically, and racistically, and maybe even patronisingly, since he reminds the Americans of the former Prime Minister of Panama – General Noriega – who had been demonized, kidnapped from Panama, and jailed in U.S. Mr Duterte looks somewhat like Mr Noreiga – short, brutish looking, pock-faced, South American.


  5. Joseph says:

    The SCS debacle has proven to be what the region needs to move forward to a future free from the American and other colonialistic element. It may look bad at first, but it becomes the defining moment for China to take its rightful place in the region, and for Phillipines to shed off the last itching skin of its colonial master, the American. In reminiscence of 1998 Indonesian tragedy, in which Chinese Indonesian abandoned Indonesia after being violently targeted by pro-American, the Indonesian realized how important and intergrated their economy was with the Chinese compared to the American. From that moment, Indonesia changed its attitude toward China and the Chinese for the better and never going back. Obviously Phillipines needs the same bitter remedy. The even of the last five years had made Phillipines to realize how important and integrated the Chinese is to the Philippines in their everyday life. Hopefully Philippines will follow Indonesian example to cherish this second chance. After all they have experienced what was at stake. Ironic that the scheme to restore American dominance in Phillipines at the cost of the usual China and the Chinese has backfired to cost the American everything they have left. With the American vanquished from the region, hopefully peace with return to the region like it was before the time of the European. With the Philippines saga has soon come to closing end, China should counter attack the American by supporting the right for self determination for people of Guam, Mariana and Hawaii. It is only fair, considering what the American has done to the China and the region. After all we do not know what the American plans next. And we who live in the region have the obligation to maintain peace and stability in the region, especially from the American, the repeat offender.