World Bulletin / News Desk
The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg, meanwhile, expressed confusion Friday over Rodrigo Duterte's remarks and requested clarification.
"Quite frankly, I don't know what he means by a separation... Our relationship on the economic side is very strong so we need further clarification on that," he told the GMA Network's morning show Unang Hirit.
Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. was earlier quoted by the Inquirer as saying that the comments meant “separation from the economic and defense dependence of the past”.
Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia released a joint statement saying the country would “maintain relations with the West but we desire stronger integration with our neighbors”.
“We share the culture and a better understanding with our region," they added.
Duterte’s comments follow a bilateral meeting with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing on Thursday, in which he expressed his intention to “realign” with China and Russia.
The intention was a culmination of a succession of outbursts Duterte has made against America -- the country’s long time ally -- since taking office in June, along with talk of forging links with Beijing and Moscow, bringing uncertainty to the U.S. relationship.
For almost 70 years, the Philippines and the U.S. have been close allies in everything from trade to defense agreements, which allowed Washington to rotate aircraft, ships, and personnel through five Philippines bases.
"In this venue, I announce my separation from the United States, both in military, not social… and economic,” Duterte said in impromptu remarks at the Philippine-China Trade and Investment Forum in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.
Duterte underlined that it was already “checkmate” for the U.S. as he had publicly rebuked the country for its unfair treatment of the Philippines.
On Friday, U.S. ambassador Goldberg underlined to Unang Hirit that Washington wants to continue its ties with Manila, which he described as mutually beneficial for both countries.
"The U.S. has a very strong commitment to the Philippines. We have a defense treaty. We consider it to be a solid and solemn commitment. But we can't say what is the case on the Philippine side... We have to clarify exactly what this means in policy terms," he said.
Goldberg said during another interview with Super Radyo dzBB station that the countries were “all tied together, so I don't know what it means to separate economically”.
“The rebalance in Asia is very important to the U.S., because we recognize that the rise of China, the rise of Southeast Asia is very important to the prosperity, to the future well-being of U.S.,” he added.
“All I’m saying is that all countries in this region should have good relations with China; it benefits us too. But it shouldn’t necessarily be a zero-sum game.”
Duterte arrived in China on Tuesday and he leaves Friday.
The trip is his first official visit to a foreign country outside of regional block the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) since he took office.