BEIJING: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said it was “time to say goodbye” to the US during a visit to China on Wednesday, as the combative leader reconfigures his country’s diplomatic alliances.
Duterte is in China for a four-day trip that is expected to confirm his tilt away from Washington and towards Beijing’s sphere of influence.
During a speech addressing the Filipino community in Beijing, the firebrand president said the Philippines had gained little from its long alliance with the US, its former colonial ruler.
“Your stay in my country was for your own benefit. So time to say goodbye, my friend,” he said, as if addressing the US.
“I will not go to America anymore. I will just be insulted there,” he added, before once again referring to US President Barack Obama as a “son of a whore”.
Duterte, who took office in late June, said he was fed up with the Philippines’ foreign policy being dictated by a Western agenda. “What kept us from China was not our own making. I will charter a new course,” he said.
Foreign policy under Duterte has dramatically shifted from that pursued under predecessor Benigno Aquino, who took Beijing to an international tribunal over its extensive territorial claims in the South China Sea and won a resounding victory.
The move infuriated Beijing. But Duterte, who took office in June shortly before the tribunal ruling, has made a point of not flaunting the outcome.
He has also suspended joint US-Philippine patrols in the South China Sea, and has threatened an end to joint military exercises.
The South China Sea is of intense interest to Washington and it has repeatedly spoken out on the various territorial disputes between China and its neighbours over the strategically vital waters.
Duterte has said his China trip will focus on promoting economic ties. The Philippines is hoping, among other things, that Beijing will repeal a ban on imports of its bananas – an economic sanction intended to punish Manila for its South China Sea stance.