President Rodrigo Duterte and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chair Nur Misuari discuss matters during a meeting at Matina Enclaves in Davao City on Wednesday, August 22.
Malacañang photo by Joey Dalumpines

PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, August 23, slammed the request from U.S. government officials asking him to meet them over the country’s armed forces modernization program.

“It was sent to me. I want to share this because I want to impart how I feel,” Duterte said as he revealed the official letter signed by U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Defense Secretary James Mattis.

In his speech during the 12th founding anniversary of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) in Panacan, Davao City, Duterte told soldiers, local officials and guests that he is not keen on acquiring M16 rifles from the U.S. He added that he was more interested in acquiring propeller planes for the anti-insurgency campaign.

“Ngayon, bumabawi sila (Now, they are taking it back), three Cabinet members in one letter,” the president said, adding that the letter was sent by “three of their toughest officials.”

“We are writing you to reaffirm this administration’s strongest support for your efforts to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” the letter stated.

The letter also reiterated Washington’s continuous support in the country’s military system. They enumerated the equipment they gave to show that they are dedicated to continuing the “special relationship” between the two countries.

“Our commitment to continue to work with your Congress to support the strategic endeavors, recent decisions to procure and grant upgraded surveillance and aircraft system such as Bell combat utility helicopters and ScanEagle, Gulfstream and Cessna 208 aircraft exemplify our continuing commitment for the breadth and strength of our alliance,” the U.S. officials wrote.

The letter also highlighted the country’s partnership with the U.S. built on shared history and values. “This special relationship will only grow stronger by increasing our dialogue especially on security cooperation and trade,” the letter said.

Duterte clarified that he has nothing against the U.S. officials, however, he emphasized that he was merely stating “reality.”

“I have nothing against America and am sure wala rin kayo (you don’t have anything against them either), but mine is more of just the what is the reality on the ground,” Duterte said.  

The letter further expressed that the U.S. officials are looking forward to a possible integration in aspects of economy and security. They also emphasized that such integration would be mutually beneficial for both parties.

“We hope to partner in other significant defense procurement of our mutual benefit including through the Lockheed Martin F-16 multi-role fighter platform and your attack helicopter platform among other U.S. systems,” the letter added.

They also emphasized that they understand that the president wants the best for the Filipino people.

“At the same time, we keenly understand your country’s need for certainly when considering the selecting technology for the defense and security of the Filipino people,” it further stated.

Earlier this week, Duterte also criticized the U.S. over the country’s procurement of ineffective military gear. He said that the country bought six helicopters that were refurbished from the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) equipment.

“Now, to date, there are about two or three, nag-crash. Three. Tatlong eroplano bumagsak ‘yun (Three helicopters crashed. Three of them went down). And the two crashed, I don’t know, and then the third was, patay lahat. ‘Yun ‘yung basura na ibinigay nila sa atin (All malfunctioned. That was the garbage they sent to us),” the president said.

Duterte’s latest tirade against the U.S. came a week after Randall Schriver, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, expressed his disapproval over the country’s proposed plan to acquire submarines from Russia.

“You just like throwing caution to the winds because it would be detrimental or not good for the relations of America and the Philippines,” Duterte retorted.

Schriver said that when a country buys weapon systems, “you’re not just buying capability, you’re investing in a relationship.”

Duterte slammed the official on his remark. He questioned whether the U.S. even gives the Philippines the respect it deserved.  

“Hindi naman nagsabi basta sinabi lang about our relations (They did not elaborate, they just mentioned about the) relations between our two countries. When was it really a relation of mutuality and respect? They never gave it to us,” Duterte stated.

U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim responded to the president’s recent strong criticism by saying that it is much more important to focus on what the U.S. government is doing rather than “pay too much attention into what is sometimes said publicly.” 

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