US diplomat says Philippines an ally, but drug killings a concern


US diplomat says Philippines an ally, but drug killings a concern

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affair Daniel Russel issues his statement to reporters after meeting with Philippine officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs in suburban Pasay, south of Manila, Philippines on Monday, Oct. 24, 2016.

America's top diplomat for Asia on Monday said President Duterte's controversial remarks and a "real climate of uncertainty" about his administration's intentions have sparked distress around the world.

Duterte has been scathing about U.S. criticism of his antidrug campaign in which about 2,300 people have been killed since he took office on June 30.

"Thousands of Filipinos living there would kill me if I do", the President said a week after he was cheered on by the Chinese officials, who were hoping to quell any protest over their expansionist moves in the Spratlys, as well as the communists and the Moro leaders who egged him on to make strong declarations about breaking away from the USA in order to fast track the peace talks. It can be recalled that the President went into a lengthy discourse/sermon over the country's dismal experience under United States rule when it was a colony and long after it had acquired independence.

"This is not a positive trend and as I candidly shared with the Foreign Secretary [Yasay], your friends are also concerned about the loss of life in connection with the counter-narcotics campaign", Russel said.

The same month, the USA embassy in the Philippines called on the country to "ensure its law enforcement efforts are consistent with its human rights obligations".

The American executive said that the U.S. government also supports the Duterte administration's campaign against the illegal drug trade.

"Because the consequences when you do it the wrong way, innocent people get hurt".

"This is not a positive trend", he said, adding that the USA remains committed to continuing a solid alliance with and providing assistance to the Philippines, including in fighting drug crime.

Russel made the comments to reporters in Manila after a meeting with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay. He added that while the USA government welcomes Duterte's push for improvement in Manila's relations with Beijing, this should not be done at the expense of Manila's alliance with Washington. The US now has five bases in the Philippines. The US and Philippines have also often conducted joint military exercises on Philippines territory in the past, the last ones taking place earlier this month.

The Duterte administration, however, has not formalized his public declarations to remove USA counterterrorism forces from Mindanao and stop large-scale joint exercises involving American forces, creating confusion among even his Cabinet officials.

In a post on his Facebook page, Yasay recently attempted to clarify his leader's anti-US rhetoric.

Explaining Duterte's "Goodbye America" remarks, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said on Saturday that the United States remained the "closest friend" of the Philippines but that Manila wanted to break away from a "mindset of dependency and subservience" and forge closer ties with other nations.



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