MANILA - US-Philippines ties are going through "bumps on the road" and the Philippine military could manage if treaty ally the United States were to withdraw aid, the defense minister said on Friday.
The Philippines intended to buy arms from China and Russia and there
had been no adverse reaction from within the military to President
Rodrigo Duterte's vows to scale back defense ties with the United
States, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana's remarks suggested he was following other top officials in
Duterte's administration in rallying behind the maverick president's
tough anti-US agenda after weeks of scrambling to manage the fallout
from his outbursts and threats to downgrade the alliance.
Lorenzana had on Wednesday set a conciliatory tone, saying Duterte may have been misinformed when he said US-Philippine military exercises were no benefit to his country.
But on Friday Lorenzana said the value of US military aid to the
Philippines was "not that much", and the military could ask Congress to
make up for a shortfall of some $50 million-$100 million a year in US
"We can live without (that)," Lorenzana told a foreign correspondents' forum.
Duterte, well known for a ruthless stand against crime from his years
as mayor of a southern city, won the May election on a promise to wipe
out drugs and drug dealers.
Some 3,600 people have been killed in his anti-drugs drive and he has
been enraged by questions about human rights, from the United States
and others, that the bloodshed has raised.
Duterte said on Thursday if the United States and European Union objected to his drugs war and wished to withdraw aid, they should do so, and the Philippines would not beg.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby responded to that saying
total US assistance to the Philippines in the fiscal year that began on
Oct. 1 was $180 million "and we're committed" to delivering that.