Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says his administration will end the long-running joint military drills with the United States, emphasizing that an upcoming exercise slated for next month will be the last between the two countries.
“I will serve notice to you now, that this will be the last military exercise, jointly Philippines-US, the last one,” Duterte said during an address in Hanoi to Filipinos living in Vietnam.
The Philippines and the United States will hold Amphibious Landing Exercises from October 4 to 12 in the Philippines. The two countries staged in April a large set of exercises involving more than 8,000 forces from both sides. The annual joint military exercises have been a pillar of a defense alliance between Manila and Washington, which dates back to 1951.
However, Duterte has taken a hard line on the issue over the past weeks, saying the Philippine government will push US special forces out of the country’s troubled south.
Earlier this month, Duterte clashed with US President Barack Obama over the West’s criticism of the Philippines’ human rights record. He insulted Obama during a speech before the ASEAN summit in Laos.
The Filipino president has also defended his massive crackdown on crime and drug smuggling, which has seen some 3,700 people executed and killed.
“I am the favorite whipping boy now of the human rights (groups) all over the world,” said the 71-year-old leader to the cheer of the crowds at an upscale Hanoi hotel.
The Philippines, like Vietnam, has been at loggerheads with China over Beijing’s increasing claims over the South China Sea. Reports say Duterte will raise the issue during his two-day trip to Hanoi.
President Duterte has not hidden his intentions for reaching new trade alliances with China and Russia in the region, brushing aside old assumptions that maintaining defense alliances with the US could serve as deterrence against China’s rise.