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Philippines says it wants to 'break away' from dependency on US

The Philippines has said it wants to end the country's dependency on the United States. The country is moving to balance its interests.

Philippines Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay said in a statement on Thursday that "America has failed us," a sharp rebuke against longtime ally the United States as President Rodrigo Duterte charts a new foreign policy course.

Yasay slammed the United States for holding on to "invisible chains that reined us in towards dependency and submission as little brown brothers not capable of true independence and freedom."

"Breaking away from the shackling dependency of the Philippines to effectively address both internal and external security threats has become imperative in putting an end to our nation's subservience to US interests," he said.

The unusually blunt statement comes as Duterte seeks to reduce dependency on its longtime treaty ally and former colonial master at a time the United States is looking to the island nation as a key partner in Asia, especially to counter China. 

The brash-talking Duterte has gone on a number of verbal tirades, calling President Barack Obama a "son of a whore" and telling him he can "go to hell." Earlier this week, he said the Philippines would "break up" with the United States and move closer to Russia and China.

The rhetoric comes as the former mayor of Davao City enters his third month of a six-year term amid mounting concern from the United States, European Union and the United Nations over Duterte's flagship policy since taking office: a war on crime that has sparked human rights concerns over as many as 3,000 extrajudicial killings.

Over the weekend, the firebrand president controversially said he would be "happy to slaughter" 3 million drug users in the country.

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Three months into his term, 76 percent of Filipinos are "satisfied" with Duterte's performance, according to poll conducted by Social Weather Stations on Thursday.

Speaking in a televised speech at a police ceremony on Thursday, Duterte said that if the United States and European Union did not like his war on drugs they could cut assistance. "Go ahead, we will not beg for it," he said.

The United States has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to the Philippines over the years. But Duterte has threatened to reach out to Russia and China for weapons and said over the weekend that joint military exercise with the United States that started this week would be the last.

However, it's unclear if Duterte will really translate his threats into policy, or if he would even be able to implement them in the face of resistance from the military. US officials have said Duterte's tirades have yet to impact military relations, though they have expressed concern over his language.

Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters during joint military exercises this week that the armed forces needed US aid and benefited from the relationship.

Calling Duterte "misinformed," Lorenzana said the "the information he is getting is incomplete."

USA Philippinen Marine Militär Manöver Übung (picture-alliance/Newscom)

The Philippines' defense minister says his country benefits from the partnership with the US.

"Maybe, the defense ministry and the armed forces were remiss in providing him the correct information. This, we will address in the coming days," he said.

Duterte has said he would not repeal a 1951 mutual defense treaty between the two countries, but he has questioned enhanced defense pacts signed between the United States and his predecessor, Benigno Aquino.

The enhanced defense deal sets up storage facilities for maritime, humanitarian and disaster operations. It also grants US troops access to Philippine bases.

cw/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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