Possibly thinking a major U.S. aid package had been terminated, an enraged Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said “bye, bye” to America in retaliation Saturday and threatened to dissolve an agreement that allows U.S. troops to visit the Philippines.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government aid agency, did not actually cancel the aid. Instead, the agency deferred a vote on the renewal of aid for the Philippines “subject of a further review of concerns around rule of law and civil liberties.”
Duterte won the presidential election earlier this year largely based on his promise to aggressively target drug dealers and criminals.
Philippine police and vigilantes have killed at least 3,600 people for drug use and drug sales since Duterte took office at the end of June.
“We can survive without American money,” Duterte said, “but you know America you might also be put to notice. Prepare to leave the Philippines. Prepare for the eventual repeal for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement.”
The controversial leader also said Saturday he would set aside a ruling by an international arbitration tribunal that invalidated Beijing’s claims to most of the busy South China Sea, because he doesn’t want to impose on China, which has apparently installed weapons on the South China Sea territory.
Philippines Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr. said, “We want to make sure that there will be no further actions that will heighten the tensions” between China and the Philippines.
Manila has been one of Washington’s chief Asian allies since the two sides signed a mutual defense treaty in 1951.
Since 2002, 50 to 100 American advisers have normally worked in the archipelago’s southwest, helping to keep Muslim rebels in check. Since the two sides signed an agreement in 2014, American naval personnel have visited to help the country watch for Chinese ships in contested waters.
The United States, a former colonizer of the Philippines, also gives many work visas to Filipinos and was the country’s No. 2 source of foreign direct investment after Japan in 2013.
In 2013 the United States invested $1.3 billion in the Philippines.