World Bulletin / News Desk
“I insist that we realign, that there will be no more exercises next year,” The Philippine Star quoted him as saying a day after troops from the treaty partner countries concluded their joint PHIBLEX exercises ahead of schedule.
“Do not prepare. I told Defense Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana: ‘do not make preparations for next year.’ I do not want it anymore. And I will chart an independent foreign policy,” he said in Manila while marking the 115th anniversary of the Philippine Coast Guard.
Duterte, who has criticized the U.S. on several occasions since taking office June 30, had earlier said that this month’s exercises with U.S. troops would be “the last”.
After the war games wrapped up a day early, the Philippine armed forces’ public affairs office chief, Col. Edgar Arevalo, insisted the development was not due to Duterte’s rhetoric but because the training had been efficient, according to news broadcaster ABS-CBN.
The president, who is set to visit China next week under efforts to improve ties despite disputes over the South China Sea, has nonetheless insisted that the Philippines intends to maintain military ties with the U.S.
“We will maintain our military alliances because I said that we need it for our defense,” Duterte said Wednesday.
“We need not really, you know, break or abrogate existing treaties because they say that it would provide us with the umbrella,” he added.