THE PHILIPPINES needs the United States as a counter balance in the South China Sea, where it remains locked in a territorial dispute with China, President Duterte said on Tuesday.
Mr. Duterte made the statement in the course of explaining his earlier remark that he might later ask US Special Forces to leave Mindanao to pave the way for talks with Muslim rebels, who have historical grievances from abuses suffered at the hands of the Americans.
“I never said get out of the Philippines, for after all, we need them there in the China Sea. We don’t have armaments,” President Duterte said.
He added that the Philippines was not ready to go to war with China, and he would not want it, because it would be a “massacre.”
The Permanent Court of Arbitration, acting on the Philippines’ complaint, earlier invalidated Beijing’s claim to almost the whole of the South China Sea. China has refused to recognize the ruling.
The President is seeking bilateral talks with China over the issue, and has said that he would insist that discussions between the two countries be based on the decision.
Mr. Duterte however insisted that the Americans continue to look down on the Philippines.
“I really do not know what’s wrong with these Americans. They look at us as if we’re lowly,” he said.
He repeated his earlier lament over the FA-50 jets the country had acquired, which he said did not have missiles.
He said the Philippines had bought these from South Korea, but these were made with US technology. The Philippines could not have acquired the jets without US consent, he said.
Mr. Duterte had earlier angrily hit back at the United States for raising the human rights situation in the country amid a spate of killings of drug suspects. He had said the country was no longer Washington’s “vassal state,” even as he insisted later that the country would not cut bilateral ties with its allies.
Meanwhile, Mr. Duterte also said the Philippines was receiving offers for antiterrorism equipment from China and Israel.
But the country would have to be careful to source intelligence equipment from trusted sources.