User:TagaSanPedroAko/rewritten Presidency of Rodrigo Duterte

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Major issues of presidency[edit]


  • Inauguration
  • 2016 State of the Nation Address
  • 2017 State of the Nation Address
  • 2018 State of the Nation Address

Major acts[edit]





Domestic policy[edit]

Abolition of contractualization ("Endo")[edit]

During his campaign for the 2016 presidential election, one of Rodrigo Duterte’s promises was the phasing out of contractualization and improvement to labor in the Philippines. Upon his election, he appoints Silvestre Bello III as Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment, who considers making all companies put at least 80% of all employees under contract as per the president’s orders. By the end of 2016, around 36000 workers have been regularized. Going into 2017, Duterte and Bello aimed for a new permanent policy that would end labor-only contractualization by the end of February, but Bello wound up not signing it. Instead he decided first for dialogue between the president and labor groups in order to get feedback. Eventually President Duterte met with the labor groups as Bello drafts a new Department Order that would stop labor contractualization. However, by March 16 Bello signs Department Order 174 which sets stricter guidelines on contractualization but doesn’t immediately illegalize it. Duterte however continued his stand against contractualization, promising to sign an Executive Order against it. However, the Marawi crisis ends up postponing the signing. As of 2018, no Executive Order has been signed by President Duterte regarding the complete abolishment of contractualization. A rally was organized by labor groups on March 15, 2018 in protest against the president’s delay of the EO. Eventually on May 1, Duterte signs an EO that would put an end to contractualization, although Labor Groups would criticize the president for his actions since the one signed was not the draft agreed upon with them.[1]

Burial of Ferdinand Marcos[edit]

In November 8, the Supreme Court issued its verdict which paved the way for a Duterte campaign promise to the bury the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery). Thousands rallied in protest against the verdict.[2] In November 14, the Philippine peso dropped to an almost 8-year low against the US dollar.[3] In November 16, Duterte's allies downplayed the President's earlier statements that he was "tempted" to declare martial law to solve the drug problem in the country.[4] In November 18, Ferdinand Marcos was buried with full military honors at the Heroes’ Cemetery, without advance notice to the media.[5] The sudden burial of Marcos, “like a thief in the night,” as critics called it, sparked national outrage, especially among those who suffered human rights abuses under the Marcos regime. Thousands of protesters, organized by the youth and democracy groups, staged protests nationwide to express their strong disappointment and rage against the heroic burial of the dictator who killed thousands of Filipinos under his martial regime.

Communist insurgency[edit]

In July 2016, Duterte directed his peace process advisor for the CPP–NPA–NDF rebellion, Silvestre Bello III, to lead a government panel in resuming peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People's Army (NPA), and the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Oslo, Norway, expressing hope that a peace treaty between the rebellions would be reached within a year.[6] The first talks began on August 22–26, 2016, in which the parties agreed upon "the affirmation of previously signed agreements, the reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees which 'protects the rights of negotiators, consultants, staffers, security and other personnel involved in peace negotiations',[7] and the accelerated progress for negotiations."[8] In February 2017, due to recent attacks and kidnapping of soldiers by members of the NPA despite the imposed ceasefire by the government and the rebel groups, President Duterte cancelled all negotiations with the CPP–NPA–NDF and labeled them a terrorist group.[9] He also ordered the arrest of all NDF negotiators.[10] Military offensive against the group resumed after Duterte's cancellation of ceasefire.[11]


Death penalty[edit]

Duterte speaking with PNP Police Director General Ronald Dela Rosa in the Malacañang Palace on August 16, 2016

During the 2016 election, Duterte campaigned to restore the death penalty in the Philippines.[12][13][14] Duterte, who won the election in May 2016, supports restoration of the death penalty by hanging.[15] It has been reported that he wants capital punishment for criminals involved in illegal drugs, gun-for-hire syndicates and those who commit "heinous crimes" such as rape, robbery or car theft where the victim is murdered.[15] Duterte has theatrically vowed "to litter Manila Bay with the bodies of criminals".[16] In December 2016, the bill to resume capital punishment for certain "heinous offenses" swiftly passed out of Committee in the House of Representatives; it passed the full House of Representatives in February 2017.[17] However, the law reinstating the death penalty stalled in the Senate in April 2017, where it did not appear to have enough votes to pass.[18][19]


Duterte presents a chart which he claims illustrates a drug trade network of drug syndicates, on July 7, 2016.
Duterte delivering his first State of the Nation Address at the Batasang Pambansa with Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on July 25, 2016

After his inauguration, Duterte spoke to journalists in Tondo, Manila, where he urged Filipino citizens to voluntarily kill drug pushers and addicts.[20] A day after his inauguration, Duterte requested for the New People's Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, to "disarm and arrest" drug lords.[21]

On July 5, 2016, Duterte revealed the names of five police officials who were allegedly involved in illegal drug trade.[22] On July 7, during a press conference, Duterte presented a chart identifying three Chinese nationals who serve as drug lords in the Philippines.[23][24]

The Philippine Daily Inquirer published a "kill list".[25] Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat urged the Philippine House of Representatives to investigate the "spate of extrajudicial killings and/or summary executions of suspected violators of laws on illegal drugs and other suspected criminals".[26] Senator and former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima urged Duterte's administration to cease the extrajudicial killings and said that she would file a resolution for the Philippine Senate to conduct an investigation.[27] The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan also asked Duterte to investigate the increasing number of extrajudicial killings.[28] The Duterte administration demanded critics to provide evidence.[29]

Duterte has justified the drug war by claiming that the Philippines was becoming a "narco-state". According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the prevalence of drug use in the country is lower than the global average.[30] Duterte has dismissed human rights concerns by dehumanizing drug users, stating in August 2016: "Crime against humanity? In the first place, I'd like to be frank with you. Are they humans? What is your definition of a human being?"[31] In the first three months of Duterte's term in office, according to police figures, over 3,000 killings were attributed to his nationwide anti-drug campaign. More than half were attributed to vigilantes. At the beginning of October, a senior police officer told The Guardian that ten "special ops" official police death squads had been operating, and that he had personally been involved in killing 87 suspects. He described how the corpses were dumped at the roadside ("salvage" victims), or had their heads wrapped in masking tape with a cardboard placard labelling them as a drug offender, so that the killing would not be investigated. The chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, Chito Gascon, was quoted in the report: "I am not surprised, I have heard of this." The Philippine National Police declined to comment. The report stated: "although The Guardian can verify the policeman's rank and his service history, there is no independent, official confirmation for the allegations of state complicity and police coordination in mass murder."[32]


On April 3, 2017, the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, authored by senator Bam Aquino, was signed into law, paving the way for free college education in all state universities and colleges nationwide.[33][34] The law came into force in August 3, the date colleges and universities begin their classes.


In April 4, Duterte announced that the government shall 'close down' all operations within the island of Boracay, the country's number one tourism destination, due to 'environmental concerns'.[35] In April 10, Duterte admitted that the government has 'no master plan' in how to clean-up Boracay, which he called a 'cesspool'.[36]In April 24, more than 600 military personnel were deployed by Duterte in Boracay, confusing the natives on the government's initial environmental wordings.[37][38] In April 26, Boracay's 6-month 'rehabilitation' began. The entire island was officially closed to the public.[39]

Islamic insurgency in Mindanao[edit]

Duterte welcomes Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad following his release from Abu Sayyaf captivity.

Nur Misuari's wife Tarhata Misuari received help from Duterte when he interceded on their behalf after the events of Zamboanga.[40] Duterte has said that Moro dignity is what the MILF and MNLF are struggling for, and that they are not terrorists. He acknowledged that the Moros were subjected to wrongdoing, historical and in territory.[41]

Duterte was endorsed in the election by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari[42] due to his background in Mindanao.[43] Jesus Dureza was his second choice.[44] Other Muslims also supported Duterte and denounced Roxas, the Aquino-supported pick.[45]

During the Mindanao Hariraya Eid al-Fitr 2016 convention in Davao City on July 8, 2016, Duterte vowed to address the Moro conflict and bring peace in Mindanao, assuring the Filipino Muslim community that "something will change" before the end of his term. He said that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) both support his proposal for federalism in the Philippines, which he says is the only solution to the Bangsamoro peace process. Duterte said that if the proposal for the country's shift to federalism fails or is not desired by the Filipino people, he will vow to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which would establish the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. He also added that the Basic Law should benefit both MILF and MNLF, saying he is willing to negotiate with both secessionists to initiate a "reconfiguration" of territory.[46][47]

A crowd of Muslims were attending the speech by Duterte where he accused America of bringing terrorism to themselves, saying that terrorism is not the result of the Middle East.[48] He railed against the actions undertaken in the Middle East by the USA.[49] Duterte blamed the war on Mindanao on colonialist Christianity being brought to the Philippines in 1521 by Ferdinand Magellan, saying there was peace before that and that they were made to fight their "Malay brother" by Christians.[50]

Duterte meeting with MNLF chairman, founder and former ARMM Governor Nur Misuari, November 3, 2016

The Bud Dajo Massacre inflicted upon the Moros was mentioned by President Duterte to criticize the United States and its President Barack Obama.[51] The massacre was cited a second time by Duterte in criticizing America while calling for the exit of American troops.[52]

On November 6, 2016, Duterte signed an executive order to expand the Bangsamoro Transition Commission to 21 members from 15, in which 11 will be decided by the MILF and 10 will be nominated by the government. The commission was formed in December 2013 and is tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law in accordance with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro[53]

The MNLF and MILF both count some of Duterte's relatives in their ranks.[54] Criminals were treated ruthlessly by Duterte, while the MILF, MNLF and NPA have received sympathetic treatment from him.[55] Duterte attacked terrorists and criminals and said there would be no ceasefire for them, while other groups like the MNLF, MILF, and NPA all received a ceasefire from Duterte over the December holiday in 2016.[56][57]

Law and order[edit]

Rodrigo Duterte launched "Oplan RODY" or "Rid the Streets of Drunkards and Youths" in June 13, 2018. The campaign targeted to arrest the youth, notably students and jobless young adults who wander outside their homes.[58] In June 21, records showed that 7,291 youth were arrested by the police just 9 days after the "Oplan RODY" or "Rid the Streets of Drunkards and Youths" campaign was launched, sparking protests nationwide. The record of arrests released were only from Metro Manila, one of the 18 regions in the country.[59] In June 22, Duterte withdrew his position and denied that he ordered the initiation of "Oplan RODY", however, he did not call for the stopping of the campaign.[58] In June 27, militant and religious groups protested against the "Oplan Tambay".[60] In June 30, 25-year-old Genesis Argoncillo was arrested by the police for 'not wearing a shirt' under the Oplan RODY campaign of Duterte. Argoncillo was killed a few days later while in prison.[61]


Indigenous Lumad people appeal to the government to stop the bombings and militarization of their communities and schools. Community schools in Lumads has been alleged to have ties with communist rebels. Holding his suspicions, Duterte has repeatedly threatened the military to bomb Lumad schools last July 24[62] and Nov 17, 2017.[63]

In May 20, the Armed Forces of the Philippines burned down an entire community of Lumad people, which included a school and 35 houses in the Soccksargen region of Mindanao.[64]

In December 8, the Karapatan group asked the United Nations to probe the killings of the Lumad (indigenous peoples of Mindanao), after eight T’boli and Dulangan Manobo farmers were killed by members of the 27th and 33rd Infantry Battalions of the Philippine Army.[65][66]

In February 5, it was confirmed that the military-conducted killings of Lumad peoples in Mindanao continued. Duterte ordered the military to bomb Lumad schools last July 2017, and has never withdrawn the threat.[67] In July 16, military presence in Surigao del Sur, a traditional Lumad indigenous territory, prompted an expansive Lumad evacuation due to fear from military bombings, leading to protests against Duterte's anti-Lumad campaigns.[68]

Tax reform[edit]

In December 19, Duterte signed into law the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN Law), which slightly increased the take-home pay of workers but also increased the taxes on and prices of goods nationwide. The signing of the law exponentially increased the country's inflation rate and diminished the strength of the Philippine peso.[69][70]

The implementation of the TRAIN Law triggered protests from various left-wing groups. In January 15, protesters gathered at various public market sites, calling for the revocation of Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act, a law that has increased the cost of goods exponentially since December 2017.[71] TRAIN law and other issues are also tackled in student protests called "Pambansang Walkout".[72] In May 21, several groups gathered at numerous gas station sites in the country to protest the continuous increase of oil prices, citing the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN Law) as the main cause.[73]


The Maute group, an ISIS-inspired terrorist group, had reportedly been able to establish a stronghold in Lanao del Sur since early 2016. The group had been blamed for the 2016 Davao City bombing and two attacks in Butig, Lanao del Sur, a town located south of Marawi, in 2016.[74] Before the Duterte administration, the Philippine government had downplayed the threat of ISIS in the Philippines.[75] Even after the February 2016 Butig clash with the Maute group, then-President Benigno Aquino III discounted the possibility of the Islamic State's presence in the country. He said that those behind the attack were just mercenaries wanting to be recognized by the Middle East-based terror group.[76]

In November 2016, President Duterte confirmed the Maute group's affiliation with the Islamic State.[74] Amidst fierce fighting in Butig on November 30, 2016, Duterte, in a command briefing in Lanao del Sur, warned the Maute group: "Ayaw ko makipag-away sa inyo. Ayaw ko makipag-patayan, (I do not want to fight with you. I don't want us killing each other) but please, do not force my hand. I cannot be forever traveling here every month para lang makipag-usap (just to talk), at pagtalikod ko patayan na naman (and when I turn around, there's killing again). I do not want to mention anything, but please do not force my hand into it."[77][78] On December 2, 2016, as the military regained control of Butig, the retreating Maute fighters reportedly left a note threatening to behead Duterte.[79]

On May 23, 2017, clashes between Philippine government security forces and militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), including the Maute and Abu Sayyaf Salafi jihadist groups erupted in the city of Marawi.[80]

On the same day, Duterte signed Proclamation No. 216 declaring a 60-day martial law in Mindanao following clashes between the AFP and the Maute group in Marawi, Lanao del Sur.[81] He said that the implementation is similar to Proclamation No. 1081 and expressed the possibility of extending the scope of the martial law nationwide if deemed necessary.[82]

The Battle of Marawi became the longest urban battle in the modern history of the Philippines.[83]

According to the Philippine government, the clashes began during an offensive in Marawi to capture Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the ISIL-affiliated Abu Sayyaf group.[84][85] A deadly firefight erupted when Hapilon's forces opened fire on the combined Army and police teams and called for reinforcements from the Maute group.[86]

Maute group militants attacked Camp Ranao and occupied several buildings in the city, including Marawi City Hall, Mindanao State University, a hospital, and the city jail.[86] They also occupied the main street and set fire to Saint Mary's Cathedral, Ninoy Aquino School, and Dansalan College, which is run by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).[84][87] The militants also took a priest and several churchgoers hostage.[88]

The Armed Forces of the Philippines stated that some of the terrorists were foreigners who had been in the country for a long time, offering support to the Maute group in Marawi. Their main objective was to raise an ISIS flag at the Lanao del Sur Provincial Capitol and declare a wilayat or provincial ISIS territory in Lanao del Sur.[89][90]

The fighting lasted for five months until October 17, 2017, the day after the deaths of militant leaders Omar Maute and Isnilon Hapilon. President Duterte declared Marawi as "liberated from terrorist influence".[91] This was followed by another October 23, 2017 pronouncement of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that the five-month battle against the terrorists in Marawi had finally ended.[92]

Economic policy[edit]

Duterte speaking at the World Economic Forum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 11, 2017

Early in his term, Duterte's expletive-laden outbursts triggered the biggest exodus from stocks in a year and made the peso Asia's worst performer in September 2016. The Philippine currency was at a seven-year low and rounding out its worst month since May 2010. In the same month, the Philippine peso completed its biggest monthly decline since October 2000 amid the biggest outflow from the nation's stocks in a year.[93] According to the Philippines' Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, the peso's slump this year is "mainly due to a deteriorating trade outlook because of rising imports of capital goods, which is normal for a country that is growing very fast".[94] Currency strategists have, however, "predicted a rebound once investors see beyond Duterte's words".[95]

After 100 days in office, former president Ramos, a political ally-mentor of Duterte said that "Duterte has been a huge disappointment and letdown" and "the government was losing badly by prioritizing a war on drugs at the expense of issues like poverty, living costs, foreign investment, and jobs".[96][97] Based on subsequent surveys conducted by the Social Weather Stations, optimism in the economic prospects under the Duterte administration remains "excellent" with more Filipinos believing that the quality of their lives will improve in the next 12 months.[98] This is supported by polls conducted by Pulse Asia one year after Duterte took office, wherein approval (82%) and trust (81%) ratings for Duterte still remain very high.[99]

Duterte's verbal attacks especially to the US and EU are viewed by many Filipinos as a threat to their jobs especially those working for foreign companies.[100] Mark Williams, chief of Asia economist at Capital Economics, said, "Certainly, investors are worried by some of the things he's saying, he's really unnerved people".[101] The Philippine government, however, expects that employment, especially in BPO industries, will continue to keep on rising.[102] Despite Duterte's bluster and the messy local politics however, the long-term view for the Philippine economy looks good and has even pessimists conceding that gross domestic product should grow close to 7% over the next three to five years. "Twin catalysts of infrastructure spending and tax reform will drive the market over the next two years", Dante Tinga, head of research at BDO Nomura in Manila, tells Barron's. "There's an investment boom under way, which I believe will help in rerating the market over the next 12 months."[103]

In December, government data revealed that the Philippines' output of nickel ore fell 16 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, after the country, which is the world's top supplier of the metal, suspended some mines in a clampdown on environmental violations. Production dropped to 19.8 million tonnes in the nine months to September from 25.97 million tonnes a year ago, according to the data.[104] According to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, the "Philippine economy is delivering the performance we anticipated, notwithstanding the political noise and a significant terrorist event in Mindanao". Dominguez gave the assessment during the Banyan Tree Leadership Forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.[105]

Foreign policy[edit]

International trips made by Duterte during his presidency

The Duterte administration has vowed to pursue an "independent foreign policy" that would reject any meddling by foreign governments, reiterating Article II, Section 7 of the 1987 Constitution which states: "The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination." In September 2016, Duterte said: "We will observe and must insist on the time-honored principle of sovereignty, sovereign equality, non-interference and the commitment of peaceful settlements of dispute that will serve our people and protect the interests of our country."[106]

Duterte made his first international trips as president to Vientiane, Laos and Jakarta, Indonesia on September 5–9, 2016.[107]


Duterte joins other ASEAN heads of states, holding hands as a symbol of unity in Vientiane, Laos, September 7, 2016.

Duterte has placed great importance on the Philippines' diplomatic relations with its ASEAN neighbors. Following tradition, his first trips outside the country were to Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei, and Singapore.[108]

In 2017 the Philippines was chair and host to the ASEAN summits, a series of diplomatic conferences centering on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The culminating event was held in Manila on 10–14 November (31st summit). It was attended by ten Asean leaders.[109]

China and Russia[edit]

Following his inauguration as president, Duterte mentioned his willingness to "reorient" his foreign policy towards China and Russia, particularly in the areas of trade and commerce.[110] During an interview with Al Jazeera, he expressed his willingness to conduct joint military exercises with China and Russia.[111] In September, Duterte said that he is considering purchasing military equipment, particularly weaponries and armaments, from China and Russia to strengthen the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in addressing insurgency and counter-terrorism, saying that deals between the Philippines and the two countries are already in discussion and that the Chinese and Russian governments have offered the Philippines soft loans that would be payable in 2025.[112]

Duterte's handshake with Chinese President Xi Jinping prior to the bilateral meetings at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, October 20, 2016

On October 18–21, 2016, Duterte visited Beijing to meet with Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. While announcing his "separation" from the United States in front of Chinese and Filipino businessmen at the Philippines–China Trade and Investment Forum in Beijing on October 20, Duterte also said that he would realign himself with the Chinese ideological flow and that he might also travel to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin to "tell him that there are three of us against the world – China, Philippines, and Russia".[113][114]

Duterte meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the APEC summit in Lima, Peru, November 19, 2016.

On November 20, 2016, Duterte met with Putin during the sidelines of the APEC summit in Lima, Peru. Duterte has praised Putin's leadership skills and called him his "idol". Putin also invited Duterte to visit Moscow.[115][116] Duterte said that he would visit Moscow on May 25, 2017, where a defense cooperation agreement between the Philippines and Russia is expected to be finalized.[117]

During an interview with RT in November, Duterte said that the Philippines is "not ready" for military alliances with China and Russia due to the Mutual Defense Treaty signed between the Philippines and the U.S.; however, he clarified that the Philippines could seek stronger diplomatic cooperation with China and Russia, as well as other countries, "to make the world more peaceful".[118] Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev expounded on Duterte's statement by saying that the Russian government is offering a strategic partnership with the Philippines, not a military alliance, and added that Russia does not believe in establishing military alliances with Asia. However, Khovaev explained that the Russian government is open to assisting the Philippines in purchasing Russian-made weaponry.[119]

On May 1, 2017, following a visit to three Chinese naval ships at the Port of Davao, Duterte expressed interest in conducting joint military exercises between the Philippine Armed Forces and China's People's Liberation Army in Mindanao, particularly in the Sulu Sea.[120]

Territorial dispute[edit]

Duterte meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, September 6, 2016

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration tribunal in the Hague announced its ruling in favor of the Philippines in its case filed under the Benigno Aquino III administration in 2013 against China on issues regarding the South China Sea under the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, including the latter's nine-dash line claim which the tribunal ruled had no legal basis.[121] Three days after, during a testimonial dinner in San Juan, Duterte asked former President Fidel Ramos to lead the Philippine envoy to Beijing for bilateral negotiations with China over the disputes.[122] Ramos accepted the offer on July 23,[123] but resigned on October 31.[124] During his first State of the Nation Address on July 25, Duterte said that his administration "strongly affirms and respects" the ruling and would use it as a guide to negotiate for a resolution on the territorial disputes.[125] Duterte prefers to discuss the issue quietly and directly with China and has vowed not to raise the issue before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.[126][127] Duterte said "he would not want to antagonize China" and would want to "maintain good relations with China" to "create an environment where we sit down and talk directly".[127]

On October 12, Duterte declared his intention to terminate joint US–Philippine naval patrols in the South China Sea, which he believes could needlessly antagonize China.[128] His reticent approach with China contrasts with his otherwise "belligerent rhetoric and swaggering persona"; he has received support for some political ads from an anonymous Chinese donor.[129]

On October 20 in Beijing, Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to resume direct talks on the dispute.[130]

When then U.S. Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson threatened China's positions on the islands, the Philippines said that Tillerson was speaking for the U.S. only in the U.S.'s interest and prerogatives.[131] Delfin Lorenzana, Duterte's Defense Secretary, rejected the possibility of war against China over the islands in the South China Sea.[132]

Duterte and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Blue House in Seoul on June 4, 2018.

On April 6, 2017, Duterte ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to occupy and fortify at least nine uninhabited islands in the South China Sea. He announced plans to visit the Philippine-administered Thitu (Pag-asa) Island during Independence Day and raise a Philippine flag there.[133] Duterte also ordered the Philippine Navy to build structures on the Benham Rise in order to reassure the Philippines' sovereignty over the undersea region, following the sighting of Chinese survey vessels.[134] He also announced plans to rename the Benham Rise to the Philippine Ridge.[135] On April 12, Duterte canceled his plan to visit the Thitu (Pag-asa) Island, citing goodwill and friendship with China.[136] On April 21, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced the allocation of ₱1.6 billion to develop the Thitu (Pag-asa) Island, despite rejection from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[137] The development of the island is expected to include the construction of a marine research center, beaching facilities, a radio station, an ice plant, and a power station, as well as the improvement of the Rancudo airstrip runway.[138] On May 16, 2017, Duterte signed an executive order formally renaming the Benham Rise to the Philippine Rise.[139]

In February 2018, the Philippine Daily Inquirer published aerial surveillance photos of Chinese military fortifications in the South China Sea which showed runways, hangars, control towers, helipads, radomes and multi-storey buildings on reefs across the region, described by the newspaper as "island fortresses". The photos, which were mostly taken in late 2017, were authenticated by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which described them as "the most complete, detailed batch of aerial pics available", and stated that the "photos show China is nearly done with its militarization of South China Sea". Duterte's spokesman told reporters: "[The region has] long been militarized. And the question is, what can we do?" - which led to accusations of dereliction of his "sacred core duty" of defending Philippine territory.[140]

United States[edit]

Duterte with then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, July 26, 2016

On September 12, 2016, Duterte said that he is "not a fan of the Americans" and that he wants to "reorient" foreign policy with the United States. He requested that U.S. forces in Mindanao should leave the Philippines, specifically those who are part of the Operation Enduring Freedom, saying that it would "inflame the situation with the Abu Sayyaf".[141][142] Duterte said on September 13 that he does not plan to cut ties with the United States, but wants to reiterate the administration's pursuit of an "independent foreign policy" in accordance with the Constitution; the administration will continue to honor mutual agreements like the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.[143] On September 20, Duterte said: "I never said get out of the Philippines, for after all, we need them there in the China Sea. We don't have armaments."[144][145]

On September 27, Duterte vowed not to allow the U.S. government to interfere with the policies of his administration. He criticized the U.S. government for "lecturing" his administration on human rights amidst their campaign on illegal drugs and said that he will "cross the Rubicon with the U.S." Duterte added that he plans to forge "new alliances" with China and Russia in trade and commerce.[146] U.S. Department of State deputy spokesperson Mark Toner responded to Duterte's criticisms by saying that the Philippine–U.S. relations could still remain "strong and unabated" despite Duterte's criticisms.[147] The following day, while addressing the Filipino community in Hanoi, Duterte said that the Balikatan military exercises and the joint naval patrols in the South China Sea between the Philippines and the U.S. in October would be "its last" in order to avoid provoking conflict with China.[148][149]

Duterte with then U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, August 7, 2017

On October 5, Duterte accused the U.S. of refusing to sell armaments to the Philippines and said that he would rather purchase armaments from China and Russia.[150] In an attempt to repair relations with the U.S., Duterte's Defense Secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, said Duterte was "misinformed" about the U.S. alliance: "Maybe, the defense ministry and the armed forces were remiss in providing him the correct information."[151]

On October 6, Duterte's then-Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. denounced the idea of the Philippines being regarded as a "little brown brother" by the U.S.[152] Yasay said that the Philippines had been "failed" by the U.S.[153][154]

On October 20, while on a trip to Beijing, Duterte declared a "separation" from the United States which he stated had lost militarily, socially, and economically, and emphasized a realignment of the Philippines to move closer to China.[155] During a press conference after arriving from Beijing, Duterte clarified that what he meant by "separation" was a "separation of a foreign policy" and not a severance of diplomatic ties, saying that it would not be feasible to cut diplomatic ties with the U.S. due to the large number of Filipino Americans.[156] U.S. Department of State spokesperson John Kirby responded by saying: "We are going to be seeking an explanation of exactly what the president meant when he talked about separation from the U.S.; it's not clear what that means and all its ramifications."[157] On October 23, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel R. Russel traveled to Manila to seek clarification and explanation for Duterte's comments with Philippine officials, including Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.[158][159]

Duterte with U.S. President Donald Trump in Manila, November 13, 2017

On November 7, Secretary Lorenzana clarified that the joint Balikatan exercises will continue along with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, but the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training amphibious landing exercises between the Philippine Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy would be discontinued. He specified that bilateral drills on counter-terrorism, humanitarian response, special operations, engineering projects, and civic action will remain, all of which have been approved by Duterte.[160]

Following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar offered "warm congratulations" to Donald Trump on his election victory. He said that Duterte "look[ed] forward to working with the incoming administration for enhanced Philippines–US relations anchored on mutual respect, mutual benefit and shared commitment to democratic ideals and the rule of law".[161] While in Kuala Lumpur, Duterte personally congratulated Trump by greeting him "Mabuhay!" and expressed hope that the Trump administration would honor obligations and treaties signed between the Philippines and the U.S.[162] On December 2, Duterte called then President-elect Trump to personally congratulate him once more and invited him to visit the Philippines for the Twelfth East Asia Summit in 2017, while Trump invited Duterte to visit him in New York City and Washington, D.C. after the former's inauguration.[163] On April 29, 2017, President Trump called Duterte to inform him of his planned visit to the Philippines in November for the East Asia Summit. Trump also extended an invitation to Duterte to visit him at the White House.[164] During their call, Duterte urged Trump to show restraint in dealing with North Korea over their nuclear weapons program, warning him that the region could suffer "immensely".[165] Trump also praised Duterte's drug war during the call, telling him "I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem".[166][167]

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