Philippines: President Duterte says 'not a fan' of US, vows to create own course

Duterte announces that Beijing had promised to help in building drug rehabilitation centres for the treatment of Filipino crystal meth users.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday that he is "not a fan" of the United States and vows to drive an independent plan for the key Asian ally. He added that he would refrain from confronting territorial rival China.

Duterte made these comments after a controversial foreign trip to a regional summit of Asian leaders in Laos.

"I am not a fan of the Americans... Filipinos should be first before everybody else," Duterte told AFP on Saturday.

"In our relations to the world, the Philippines will pursue an independent foreign policy. I repeat: The Philippines will pursue an independent foreign policy," he added.

Duterte, who is known for his expletive-laced speeches, referred to US President Barack Obama as a "son of a bitch" a couple of days before the summit. He also warned Obama not to challenge him over extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

Obama had urged him to conduct his crime war "the right way" and protect human rights. But Duterte dismissed it and said that America has nothing to do with it.

"You must be respectful. Do not just throw questions," Duterte said.

Obama's trip to the summit was overshadowed by such comments and Duterte prompted the American leader to call off their bilateral meeting slated on Tuesday. But, later Duterte expressed regrets for his foul-mouthed rant against the US President and both met briefly at the summit.

The US, Manila's main military ally and the Philippines' colonial ruler until 1946, has criticised Duterte's brutal crackdown on crime which has claimed lives of almost 3,000 suspected drug peddlers and users since he came to the power in May.

The Philippines and the United States also subtly differed in their opinions on how to proceed regarding the UN-backed international tribunal ruling in July that rejected China's vast territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The US government wants to ensure the freedom of navigation in the disputed waterway and hence Obama brought up the issue at the Laos summit which was also attended by China.

The US President stressed on the point that the ruling was "binding and could not be ignored by Beijing, which has rejected it".

In response to that, Duterte said on Saturday that it would be counter-productive for his militarily weak nation to confront China or undertake actions that could lead to an armed conflict. He said he was in favour of "soft landing" for the issue.

"I assured everybody that there are only two options there: We go to fight, which we cannot afford at all, or talk," Duterte added.

During an overnight visit to Indonesia on Friday, Duterte announced that Beijing had promised to offer help in building drug rehabilitation centres for the treatment of Filipino crystal meth users.

The law enforcement authorities believe that criminal gangs in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong are the ones who supply most of the illegal and highly addictive drugs to the Philippines.

"Only China has offered to help us," Duterte said on Friday.