VIENTIANE, Laos – The Philippine bilateral talks with the United States scheduled on the margins of the 28th and 29th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summits and Related Summits being held here has been moved to a later date.
This as President Rodrigo Duterte expressed regret that his comments made to the press about United States President Brack Obama have caused much controversy.
Based on a statement read Tuesday by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella on behalf of President Duterte, the meeting between the US and the Philippines has been mutually agreed upon to be moved to a later date.
“While the immediate cause was my strong comments to certain press questions that elicited concerns and distress, we also regret it came across as a personal attack on the US President,” Duterte said in the statement read by Abella.
The President explained that is primary intention is to “chart an independent foreign policy while promoting closer ties with all nations, especially the US with which we have had a long standing partnership.”
“We look forward to ironing out difference arising out of national priorities and perceptions, and working in mutually responsible ways for both countries,” President Duterte said in the statement.
The decision to cancel the bilateral meeting between Obama and Duterte originally scheduled Tuesday afternoon Manila time was announced by a White House spokesperson earlier. Instead, Obama will meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
The cancellation came after President Duterte warned President Obama to keep off the subject of extrajudicial killings in the country amid his administration’s war against drugs in their scheduled bilateral meeting.
“You must be respectful,” the President was quoted as saying in a media briefing before his departure for Laos Monday. “Do not just throw away questions and statements. Son of a whore, I will curse you in that forum. We will be wallowing in the mud like pigs if you do that to me.”
When this latest tirade issued by Duterte reached him at the G20 summit in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, President Obama initially said he has instructed his team to talk to their Philippine counterparts to find out if is this in fact a time where they can have “constructive productive conversations.”
“I just came out of a long day of meetings. I just heard about some of this. But I have seen some of those colorful statements in the past,” Obama said referring to Duterte. “And so clearly he’s a colorful guy.”
“Obviously, the Filipino people are some of our closest friends and allies,” he added. “And the Philippines is a treaty ally of ours. But I always wanna make sure, that if I’m having a meeting, that is actually productive and we’re getting something done.”
President Obama said he recognizes the “significant burden that the drug trade plays not just in the Philippines but around the world and fighting narco-trafficking is tough.”
“But we will always assert the need to have due process and to engage in that fight against drugs in a way that’s consistent with basic international norms,” he said. (ROY C. MABASA)