Amid growing tensions between Manila and Washington, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said that he wants US troops out of his country in the next two years.
Duterte told an economic forum in Tokyo on Wednesday that Manila was also willing to scrap defense pacts with Washington if necessary.
In a clear reference to US forces he said: “I want, maybe in the next two years, my country free of the presence of foreign military troops,” adding, “I want them out and if I have to revise or abrogate agreements, executive agreements, I will.”
Press TV reports:
Duterte told reporters on Tuesday before leaving for Japan that if he stayed longer, he would not sign the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States.
President Duterte has promised that he would review the defense pact. He has already said that the presence of the US troops in the island of Mindanao could complicate Manila’s operations against the Abu Sayyaf militant group, notorious for different terrorist attacks in the country.
In a meeting with business leaders in the Chinese capital Beijing last week, Duterte said the Philippines would “separate” from the United States and realign with China and Russia.
The Philippine president has tried to reach out to China and Russia amid an uneasy relationship with Washington.
Last month, the Filipino leader harshly criticized the US and President Barack Obama, saying he was not a “puppet” of America. “I am the president of a sovereign country and I am not answerable to anyone except the Filipino people.”
Washington is critical of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs. The attitude has led to tensions between the Philippines and the United States.