Breaking News: US Sent Defense Secretary To The PHL Next Week To Ask Duterte Not To Break Allies With US

US Ambassador Philip Goldberg on Friday said the US wants to continue its relationship with the Philippines and would like clarification on what President Rodrigo Duterte meant by breaking alliance.

The ambassador was reacting to a statement Thursday by Duterte while he was in China that he was breaking the Philippines' military and economic alliance with the US, the country's longtime ally.

"Quite frankly, I don't know what he means by a separation... Our relationship on the economic side is very strong so we need further clarification on that," Goldberg said in an interview on Unang Hirit.

"The US has a very strong commitment to the Philippines. We have a defense treaty. We consider it to be a solid and solemn commitment. But we can't say what is the case on the Philippine side... We have to clarify exactly what this means in policy terms," he said.

Goldberg said the US wants to continue its ties with the Philippines because it is "mutually beneficial for both countries." "So the real question is, what does it all mean? We have a large assistance program here," he said, citing for instance a 200-km road in Samar constructed with assistance from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, humanitarian assistance, scholarship offerings, and disaster relief operations.

"We worked very hard in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Those are the things allies do together," he added.

"I don't know what separation means because we're inextricably linked... What I see is that we are working very much with our Philippine colleagues. Nothing but friendly relationships on a working level," Goldberg said.

"We're committed to an alliance between the two countries... From our point of view, we're not suing for divorce," he said.

Military exercises

On the issue of US military exercises in the Philippines, Goldberg also said they have received no official notification on the pulling out of US military troops in Mindanao.

"The deployment in Mindanao, where we work on counterterrorism, is somewhat separate from the exercise issue. But we haven't received any official notice. We've only heard of these public pronouncements," he said.

The US State Department on Thursday said it will seek an explanation from the Philippines for Duterte's announcement of a "separation" from Washington, Reuters reported.

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


In a separate interview on Super Radyo dzBB on Friday, Goldberg said the pronouncement was inconsistent with the strong ties the Philippines and the US have had for many years.

“We're all tied together, so I don't know what it means to separate economically,” Goldberg said.

The US ambassador said he also talked to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who said he had no prior knowledge about Duterte’s pronouncement.

“Secretary Lorenzana said that in his confirmation meeting that he didn’t know. So, if he doesn’t, I certainly need further clarification,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg believes, citing results of public opinion surveys, that most Filipinos are also not in favor of breaking ties with the US.
“This is something that the Filipino people support as well in terms of our relationship. Seventy-six percent of people have a great trust in the US,” he said.

However, if the current administration wants to push through with its separation, Goldberg said there should be constructive talks to discuss about it.

“This is not our doing. We want to continue this relationship. If the people of Philippines want to end this relationship, then we have to talk about it,” Goldberg said.

“Our ties are unbreakable regardless of President. I think that in some ways that will go on,” he added. “If the President of the Philippines wants to change that, then we have to talk.”

Goldberg also clarified that the US is not breaking ties with China.

“The rebalance in Asia is very important to the US, because we recognize that the rise of China, the rise of Southeast Asia is very important to the prosperity, to the future well-being of US,” Goldberg said.

“All I’m saying is that all countries in this region should have good relations with China; it benefits us too. But it shouldn’t necessarily be a zero-sum game,” he added.


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