Philippine President Duterte says he wants all foreign troops 'out of my country' in 2 years

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (centre) welcomed by the Filipino community at the Palace Hotel in Tokyo.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (centre) welcomed by the Filipino community at the Palace Hotel in Tokyo.PHOTO: EPA

TOKYO - Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday (Oct 26) repeated his will to revise or even repeal existing military pacts with the United States, telling an economic forum that he wants all foreign troops "out of my country" - in two years.

Speaking in English to about 1,000 businessmen from Japan and the Philippines, Mr Duterte said that he will pursue independent foreign policy.

"I want, maybe in the next two years, my country freed of the presence of foreign military troops," he said. "I want them out and if I have to revise or abrogate agreements, executive agreements, I will."

It is believed to be the first time that the president had given the time frame of two years.

Mr Duterte said that the world will "just have to contend with the renewed dynamics of my country".

He added: "I will never allow our dignity and honour to be dragged through the mud internationally. It might trouble the feelings for some, but that is how it is."

He told the audience, in a 20-minute speech that started half an hour later than scheduled, of the gravity of the drug problem in the Philippines. With the estimated four million drug addicts in the country, there was a need for a war on drugs, he said.

But this has been met with resistance from the international community, including its traditional ally, the US, as well as the European Union and the United Nations.

"I would like to make a plea to everybody that we do not pick wars with our friends and neighbours. But to me, it is high time that the president stands up his dignity for the people."

Mr Duterte said of the possibility of the US stopping aid and assistance to the Philippines: "It's like saying I'm a dog on a leash, and if I do not stop biting the criminals, we will not throw the bread right under you. We will throw it further so that you have to travel to get it. That is what America wants me to do.

"There are four million people addicted and wrecking my country. And here are my friends - supposedly - making it hard for my country to solve (the problem) or even to survive. That's a problem for all of us because you might be under the illusion that the Philippines is still under the influence of this country or that country," he added.

Last week, Mr Duterte announced his intention to "separate" with the US on a trip to Beijing, though he later clarified that he did not mean a total severance of ties.

On Wednesday, he told the audience that the focus of his visit to China last week was purely economic, and that he "did not talk" about arms or the stationing of military troops.

"Historically, we only have a short window in our dealings with China. With my visit (there) I hope this window will become bigger than usual, so we can trade freely," he said in Japan, which is currently the Philippines' only bilateral free trade partner.

In his speech, Mr Duterte also spoke of the importance of Japan to the Philippines.

Both countries celebrate 60 years of bilateral ties this year, and Japan is the largest trading partner and top source of foreign direct investments to the Philippines.

"We come to Japan to further extend its valuable support and the pursuit for promoting rural development, increasing agricultural productivity, accelerating of infrastructure spending and the investment in human capital development."

He added: "Japan has the corresponding capacity to be a real partner (in boosting) resources, expertise and technical knowledge. More than just making a dent in improving poverty and statistics, these incentives can close the inequality gap in the country's development."

He said his government is determined to create more jobs and to make it more conducive to do business in the Philippines through policies that are aimed at ensuring macro-economic stability and increasing competitiveness, as well as by ensuring peace and security.

To this end, he expressed his appreciation for Japan's role in peace-building efforts against conflict and terrorism in the island of Mindanao, which is Mr Duterte's home base.

Mr Duterte is scheduled to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a bilateral summit meeting on Wednesday evening.

Japan's top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said earlier on Wednesday that the Japanese government will continue to aid Philippine development, but he did not directly answer questions on whether relations with the US will be a summit topic.

He told a news conference that Mr Abe will seek "frank exchanges of views from the standpoint that Japan and the Philippines will continue to contribute to regional peace, stability and prosperity".