President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte said it is time for the U.S. and the Philippines to part ways — possibly for good.
“It’s about time to say: Goodbye, my friend. Your stay in my country was for your own benefit,” Duterte said Wednesday in China, criticizing what he perceives as the uneven nature of the U.S-Philippines relationship, according to the Philippine Star.
The Philippines is an important strategic partner and ally that facilitates American forward deployment and American primacy in the Asia Pacific region. Under former President Benigno Aquino III, the Philippines and the U.S. worked together to push back the threat of Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea through regular military cooperation.
Duterte, however, has turned his back on the U.S. because he’s infuriated by American criticisms of his brutal war on drugs.
“In this venue, I announce my separation from the United States,” Duterte said Thursday in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, reports Reuters.
“Both in military … but economics also, America has lost,” he explained.
“I’ve realigned myself to 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, the Philippines, and Russia. It’s the only way,” Duterte added.
Russia, the Philippines, and China have all adapted revisionist stances towards the global order and have sought a return to relevance.
The breakdown of U.S.-Philippines relations has been building for weeks.
Beyond insulting President Barack Obama and other U.S. diplomats, Duterte has canceled joint patrols and military exercises with the U.S., called for the removal of U.S. troops from the Philippines, and even clearly threatened to “break up with America.”
The Obama administration, however, has yet to acknowledge that it is on the verge of losing a critical regional ally in the Asia Pacific.
“The U.S.-Philippines alliance is built on a 70-year history, rich people-to-people ties, including a vibrant Filipino-American diaspora, and a long list of shared security interests,” explained White House spokesman Ned Price, hinting that the relationship is too strong to fail.
Duterte has made his views clear, but some domestic policymakers are hesitant to completely embrace such radical approaches. “We will maintain relations with the West,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said in a joint statement. “But, we desire stronger integration with our neighbors,” they added.
“I don’t agree with that. I think the President is wrong on that matter,” Sen. Richard Gordon said, “We don’t have to leave your old friends that had been reliable…just because you want to get a few things,” the point being that the Philippines doesn’t need to trade the U.S. for China.
While there may be some domestic resistance, Duterte is one of the most powerful Filipino leaders since the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. He has overwhelming domestic support, maintains majority control of the legislative and judiciary branches, and has the loyalty of the army and the police.
He promised to kill tens of thousands of drug criminals during his campaign for the presidency, and after taking office, he immediately went to work doing exactly that.
Duterte is telling the U.S. it’s over, but Obama is not listening. Unless the U.S. acts quickly, what was once a staunch U.S. ally may become a rival.
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