'Bye-bye America': Philippines' Duterte responds to US threat to scrap aid
By Jim Gomez, AP
December 18, 2016, 12:03 am TWN
MANILA, Philippines–President Rodrigo Duterte threatened Saturday to terminate a pact that allows U.S. troops to visit the Philippines, saying “bye-bye America” as he reacted with rage to what he thought was a U.S. decision to scrap a major aid package over human rights concerns.
A U.S. government aid agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, said earlier in the week that its board deferred a vote on a renewal of the development assistance package for the Philippines “subject to a further review of concerns around rule of law and civil liberties.”
The agency has clearly not voted to scrap or approve the aid package, but Duterte unleashed an expletives-laden tirade upon his arrival in his southern hometown of Davao after back-to-back visits to Cambodia and Singapore.
“I understand that we have been stricken out of the Millennium Challenge. Well, good, I welcome it,” Duterte said with apparent sarcasm.
“But you know, America, you might also be put to notice. Prepare to leave the Philippines, prepare for the eventual repeal or the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement,” he said, referring to a 1998 accord that governs American forces visiting the Philippines for joint combat exercises.
“You know, tit for tat … if you can do this, so (can) we. It ain’t a one-way traffic,” Duterte said, adding tauntingly, “Bye-bye America.”
The 71-year-old Duterte, who describes himself as a left-wing politician, has made similar threats before and after taking office in June, but he and his officials have walked back on many of his public statements, causing confusion.
While calling Americans “sons of bitches” and “hypocrites,” Duterte praised China as having “the kindest soul of all” for offering what he said was significant financial assistance. “So, what do I need America for?” he asked.
He also said Russia can be a very important ally. “They do not insult people, they do not interfere,” he said.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. also criticized the U.S. aid decision, saying it happened after Duterte declared he would chart a foreign policy course independent of Washington.
The Philippines had been slated for another aid package after its previous five-year, US$434 million poverty reduction program was successfully completed in May under Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III.
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