America’s Philippines Problem Just Got A Little Bit Worse

REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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The Philippines president is calling for the end of joint U.S.-Philippines operations in the South China Sea and reaching out to China and Russia for weapons.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared Tuesday that he will no longer permit Philippines forces to conduct joint patrols with the U.S. in contested areas in the South China Sea, reports Bloomberg News.

Duterte indicated that conducting joint patrols with the U.S. could be considered a “hostile act.”

“I just want to patrol our territorial waters,” the Philippines president said. Duterte’s comments suggest that he might be blaming the U.S. for marked increases in tension in the South China Sea.

Duterte’s announcement comes just one day after he demanded U.S. troops leave the Southern Philippines to avoid further agitating the Muslim militants on Mindanao. During this speech, the Philippines president asserted that U.S. aggression against Filipino Muslims around the turn of the century is responsible for today’s instability.

Despite what appear to be clear signs that the Philippines is pulling away from the U.S., Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla assures the U.S. and others that Philippine-U.S. defense relations are still “rock solid,” reports the Philippine Star.

Duterte stressed this point as well, but he also said he wanted a paradigm shift. “We are not going to cut our umbilical cord with the countries we are allied with … I’m not anti-American. We’re not severing our military ties. It has been there. Who am I to abrogate the alliance? What I’m saying is we’re following an independent foreign policy,” he explained.

Under Duterte’s leadership, the Philippines has been redefining the U.S.-Philippine relationship and been working to improve ties with China.

During his televised speech Tuesday, Duterte introduced that “two countries” have agreed to give the Philippines a 25-year soft loan to purchase arms and military equipment. He added that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and other technical specials will visit China and Russia to determine what’s best, revealed Bloomberg.

The Philippine president said that he wants to buy weapons “where they are cheap and where there are no strings attached and its transparent.”

“I don’t need jets, F-16 – that’s of no use to us. We don’t intend to fight another country,” Duterte said, delivering a jab at the U.S. The U.S. has provided around 75 percent of Philippine arm imports since the 1950s, yet the Philippines is now looking elsewhere for arms.

The U.S. has yet to give up on its long-time ally. “We’re going to remain committed to our alliance in the Philippines. We have a long, productive history with the Philippines. It’s not a history without its past troubles, but we’re committed to our alliance with the Philippines and we look forward to working our way through that,” State Department spokesperson John Kirby said during a press conference, according to the Philippine Star.

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