Duterte says Philippines, US remain best of friends
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday the United States remains the closest ally of the Philippines contrary to his previous criticisms against America.
Duterte made the statement as he is set to meet for the first time US President Donald Trump in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Vietnam this week and their bilateral meeting at the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit and Related Summits in Manila next week.
"We remain to be the best of friends with America," Duterte said in a speech at the 67th birthday of the Philippine Marine Corps in Taguig City.
Last year, when Duterte went to China, he declared his decision to distance from US in terms of military and economy. This was the time when his bloody war on illegal drugs received much criticisms from then President Barack Obama and the State Department.
In the same speech, Duterte expressed gratitude to at least four countries who have helped his government in fighting the terrorists in war-torn Marawi City.
"We'd like to thank the countries that really helped us. I don't know if they'd want them remembered or named here," Duterte said
The President specifically mentioned the United States, China, Russia and Israel.
He said the US provided equipment, while China gave arms. Recently, Russia also delivered weapons to the Philippines.
Duterte did not mention what Israel provided for the Philippines.
It took five months until last October before Duterte declared Marawi free from the Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorists.
But government troops continue to pursue some stragglers in Marawi. Celerina Monte/DMS