KENTARO IWAMOTO, Nikkei staff writer
TOKYO — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has repeatedly made strong remarks against the U.S., said on Wednesday in Tokyo that he wants his country be “free of the presence of foreign military troops” within the next two years.
During the keynote speech at the Philippine Economic Forum held on the second day of Duterte’s three-day visit to Japan, he was emphatic that his country is no longer under the influence of other countries and underscored the importance of the dignity of the Philippine people.
“I want, maybe in the next two years, my country free of the presence of foreign military troops. I want them out, and if I have to revise or abrogate agreements, executive agreements, I will,” Duterte said. Since his inauguration in June, the president has repeatedly said he would no longer tolerate hosting U.S. troops in the Philippines, and he reiterated this statement in Tokyo.
Duterte stressed that his country is mandated to adopt an independent foreign policy under the constitution, and he will pursue that stance.
He also justified his strong actions toward drug problems, including execution of addicts, which the U.S., developed countries and human rights groups have criticized. Responding to this criticism, Duterte said there are about 4 million addicts “wrecking my county,” but his country’s “friends” are “making it hard to solve [the drug problem] and even survive as a nation.”
“We do not pick quarrels with our friends and neighbors, but to me it is high time that the president stands up with dignity,” he said.
Near the end of his speech, Duterte said, “I would never allow our dignity and honor to be just like a doormat before the international public.” Many Filipinos in the audience burst into applause upon hearing the line.
He concluded his speech: “We will survive without the assistance of America … If there is one thing I would like to prove to America and to everybody, there is such a thing as the dignity of the Filipino people.”
The president, dressed in a white shirt without a jacket, spoke for 20 minutes. The speech also covered his recent China visit, and he said talks there focused on economics and the two sides “didn’t talk about arms.”
The country’s economic ministers also spoke about the Philippine economy and investment opportunities at the forum, which about 1,000 people attended.