Manila, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday that he is considering buying weapons from Russia and China and is moving to forge alliances with the said nations, while ending joint patrols with the U.S. forces in the South China Sea.
Duterte said before military officers in Manila that two countries – which he didn’t identify – have agreed to give the Philippines a 25-year soft loan for military equipment. He further stated that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the “technical people” in the military forces will be visiting Russia and China “to see what’s best.”
The president also bared his plans to travel to Russia and China to revitalize the trade and investment relations.
“I will not break ties but we will open up alliances with China and Russia. I had a good talk with Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev. They are waiting for me,” Duterte said. “After China, I think I will go to Japan and I’ll go to Russia. Never mind about the ratings. I will open up the Philippines for them to do business, alliances of trade and commerce.”
Despite the territorial dispute with China, the Philippine leader said that he talked to President Xi Jinping and that he “will open all avenues of trade and commerce.”
On the other hand, while the president hinted that he does’t want to cut the “umbilical cord” with his allies, he said that he only wanted the Philippine territorial waters to be patrolled by Filipino forces.
“We do not go into a patrol or join any other army from now because I do not want trouble,” Duterte said. “I do not want to ride gung-ho style there with China or with America. I just want to patrol our territorial waters.”
Shen Shishun, a senior researcher at the China Institute of International Studies under China’s Foreign Ministry, claimed that Duterte’s decision to end joint patrols in the South China Sea is a way to improve the country’s ties with China.
“The Philippines got little out of it, and it offended the Chinese, with whom they could have done more business with. Duterte saw this point and made a practical decision,” Shen said.
Reacting to Duterte’s pronouncement, Pentagon spokesman Commander Gary Ross said that the U.S.-Philippine relationship “has been a cornerstone of stability for over 70 years.”
“We will continue to consult closely with our Filipino partners to appropriately tailor our assistance to whatever approach the new Administration adopts,” Ross said.