President Duterte, despite his harsh US rhetoric, said the Philippines needs its ally in the South China Sea, where the country has a maritime dispute with Beijing.
In his speech before Army troops during his visit to the 10th Infantry Division in Mawab, Compostela Valley Tuesday, the Chief Executive reiterated that he did not call for the withdrawal of US forces in the country.
As he had previously explained, Duterte said he only asked the American troops to leave Minda-nao to give space for peace talks between the government and Moro rebels.
“I said there will be sometime in the future na paalisin ko ang mga (US) special forces and there are about, 100 – almost 117 of them. And then I said, umalis muna kayo para kausapin ko, para ipa-kita ko na wala kayo at kung talagang magkasunduan, umalis kayo sa Mindanao,” he stated.
“I never said, ‘Get out of the Philippines,’ for after all kailangan natin sila diyan sa (South) China Sea. Wala man tayong mga armament,” Duterte emphasized.
“But we are not also ready to go to war with China. Ako, ayaw ko. Kasi it would just be a massacre,” he added.
During his “Talk with Airmen” on the 48th anniversary of the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing last week, the President also gave the assurance that he will continue to honor the country’s alliance with the US. “I am not anti-American. I said, we are not severing our ties, military ties. Nandiyan ‘yan eh. Who am I to abrogate a treaty?” Duterte stressed.
The President made the statement one day after he said in a speech in Malacañang that while he doesn’t want a rift with America, their remaining forces in strife-torn Mindanao have to go. (Elena L. Aben)