Duterte says shift towards China will continue after Trump win

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte holding a copy of his speech as he speaks after arriving from Malaysia, at Davao International airport, on Nov 11, 2016.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte holding a copy of his speech as he speaks after arriving from Malaysia, at Davao International airport, on Nov 11, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (Bloomberg) - President Rodrigo Duterte declared Friday (Nov 11) that he would continue to shift the Philippines toward China despite Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential election.

At an early morning briefing in Davao, Duterte said that while the US would remain a friend and ally, the Philippines' foreign policy was now geared towards China and Asean.

"I will pursue what I've started," Duterte said following his return from a state visit to Malaysia. "My partnership with China and the rest of Asean will remain. I am not in the habit of reneging on my word."

Duterte called himself "just a small molecule in the planet" compared with Trump. "He is now president of the most powerful country in the world," Duterte said. "What we share in common is the passion to serve."

In a state visit to China last month, Duterte announced a formal "separation" from the US and said he wanted to pivot to China and Russia - widening a split with his nation's biggest security ally.

Since being sworn in as president in June, Duterte has vowed to end joint military exercises with the US, called for American soldiers to leave the southern island of Mindanao, and told President Barack Obama to "go to hell".

Maintain Cooperation

Even so, with the two countries still bound by several agreements including a mutual defense treaty, Duterte said the Philippines would "maintain our cooperation" with the US.

"It is still part of trying to play off the United States against China," said Segundo Romero, a professorial lecturer in development studies at the Ateneo de Manila University.

"His anti-US stance is a mix of sentiments against country and against its leadership."

In a statement on Wednesday, Duterte said he looked forward to enhancing Philippine-US relations under a future Trump administration, adding that they were "anchored on mutual respect, mutual benefit and shared commitment to democratic ideals and the rule of law."