PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday fired yet another salvo against the United States, this time telling the long-time ally’s investors and businessmen that they can opt to pack up and leave the Philippines if his vulgar and scathing remarks have caused unease among the business community.
Responding to visiting U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Russel’s assertion that conflicting statements by Duterte were creating a “climate of uncertainty”, Duterte said he was not worried about U.S. businesses leaving the Philippines.
“Go ahead. Pack your bags. We will sacrifice. We will recover, I assure you,” he said before boarding a flight to Japan for a three-day official visit to Tokyo, as quoted by The Philippine Star.
“We will live and survive. We have gone through the worst of times in this planet.”
On Friday, Russel – who was in the Philippines to, among other matters, seek clarity into Duterte’s pronouncement to “separate” from the U.S as he cemented ties with China – said his government’s intentions have sparked distress in the U.S. and other countries.
After meeting Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. in Manila on Monday, Russel told the media that Duterte’s hostilities and controversial statements “have created consternation in a number of countries” that was not only a concern among governments other than the U.S. but the Filipino expat community and corporate boardrooms as well.
The U.S. remains one of the Philippines’ strongest economic partners as the current stock of U.S. foreign direct investment stands above US$4.7 billion.
Russel said that he also relayed to Yasay international concern over continued killings under Duterte’s crackdown against illegal drugs, which has claimed the lives of more than 3,500 drug suspects since Duterte took office in late June.
Russel said that while Washington welcomes the relaxation of tensions between Manila and Beijing under Duterte, the rapprochement should not come at the expense of the U.S., the Philippines’ treaty ally.
Russel’s visit to Manila comes amid increasing animosity between the allies as Duterte tries to scale back U.S. military engagement with his country and reaches out to China.
Duterte, however, was quick to point back at Russel, calling him “stupid” for asking him to tone down his anti-U.S. rhetoric. He said this was because the U.S. had started the rift between the two countries.
“I had a talk with Secretary Yasay and here’s a guy, his name is Russel, if you can just tone down our rhetoric. But I was not the one who started this rift. They are the ones who started it,” Duterte said.
Duterte made reference to outgoing U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg’s reaction to his election joke about the 1989 rape and murder of an Australian missionary during a prison riot in Davao City when he was mayor.
“Remember, it all started during the election. I made a comment in narration of an actual event which happened in Davao and which was covered by all media outlets there. The ambassador said something not very nice,” he said
“You (Goldberg) are not supposed to do that because in an election of another country, you should be careful with your mouth,” he said.
Duterte took Russel’s statement was an insult, saying the U.S. and the European Union behaved condescendingly towards the Philippines when threatening to take legal action over his war on drugs.
“Then they will say ‘be careful, we will put you in prison.’ Son of a w***e. Go ahead,” the Philippine Star quoted Duterte as saying, adding he would not be subservient to the U.S. or any other foreign country.
“I am not also a lapdog of any country. Only the Filipinos can treat me as a lapdog. Period. Nothing else.
“Do not make us dogs. Do not. As if I am a dog with a leash and then you throw bread far away that I cannot reach.”
Additional reporting by the Associated Press