Rodrigo Duterte: US, Philippines alliance will remain

Story highlights

  • Duterte: Existing treaties provide umbrella
  • No US joint exercises 'next year,' says President

(CNN)The Philippines will not break its military alliance with the US, President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday.

He also said there will be no joint military exercises with the US "next year" in a marked change from earlier statements where he insisted this year's drills would the last ever between the longtime allies.
    "I told Defense Secretary (Delfin) Lorenzana, do not make preparations for next year. I do not want it anymore. I will chart an independent foreign policy," he said, according to state news agency, PNA. However, he also said existing treaties were necessary because they provide an "umbrella."
    "We will maintain our military alliance because ... they say, that we need it for our defense," he said in a speech in Manila.

    Rocky relations

    Earlier this month the President caused a diplomatic stir by threatening to "break up" with the US and telling President Barack Obama he could "go to hell."
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    He also said he was willing to cut ties with the US in favor of Russia and China.
    The comments came as the US and Philippines started joint military exercises for what Duterte said would be the last time.
    "I serve notice to you now that this will be the last joint military exercise with U.S. Jointly, Philippines, US, last one," he said speaking to members of the Filipino community in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi at the end of September.

    Ironclad?

    In turn, the US has repeatedly expressed concern over drug-related killings under the Duterte administration.
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    "The increased number of killings during the heightened anti-drug campaign is harming the country's image, as portrayed by international media, and some investors are now asking whether this campaign reduces the rule of law," the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. said in September.
    The spat called into question the stability of the US' relationship with one of its strongest regional allies.
    However US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the decades-old alliance with the Philippines was "ironclad."
    He said US-Philippines cooperation "has served the interests of our nations for many years now" and added that he had good discussions about "ongoing alliance operations" with his counterpart from the Philippines.