Obama, Duterte exchange pleasantries after rocky start | mb.com.ph | Philippine News
Home  » Latest News

Obama, Duterte exchange pleasantries after rocky start

White House says leaders had a brief talk

Vientiane, Laos—U.S. President Barack Obama and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had a brief discussion consisting of pleasantries on the sidelines of a summit of Southeast Asian leaders, a White House official said.

The Wednesday exchange came after the White House canceled a formal meeting with Mr. Duterte this week due to profane comments he made when speaking Monday about Mr. Obama and the Philippines’ alliance with the U.S. Mr. Duterte has since said he regrets the comments.

Their first face-to-face encounter took place before the start of a dinner for the leaders attending the summit.

US President Barack Obama (L) and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. (Manila Bulletin)

US President Barack Obama (L) and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte
(Manila Bulletin)

But on Thursday morning, Mr. Duterte was absent from meetings that Southeast Asian leaders held with Mr. Obama and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr. Duterte’s spokesman, Martin Andanar, said the Philippine leader had a migraine. Mr. Duterte arrived later for the East Asia Summit, which included leaders from Asia and the U.S.

A day earlier, Mr. Andanar asserted that Mr. Duterte’s debut at an international summit had been a success, despite the controversy that was whipped up by his off-the-cuff remarks.

 “President Duterte is a rock star not only in our country but also in other countries like Laos, Japan, and now the other foreign ministers and delegates have scrambled to get a selfie with our president,” Mr. Andanar said.

While Mr. Duterte’s anti-American tirade delivered a jolt to U.S.-Philippine ties, there were signs that the alliance was continuing to function as normal—at least for now.

On Wednesday national police chief Ronald dela Rosa—who is leading Mr. Duterte’s clampdown on drug dealers, dubbed Operation Double Barrel—took delivery of about $1 million worth of counterterrorism equipment donated by the U.S. Embassy. About 2,500 people have been killed in the so-called “war on drugs” since Mr. Duterte took office June 30.

 “I was afraid this morning when I heard the news that President Obama canceled the meeting with President Duterte [that] you may also cancel the turnover of equipment,” Mr. dela Rosa joked at the handover ceremony in Manila.

A week ago, Islamist extremists bombed a busy street market in Mr. Duterte’s hometown of Davao, killing 14 people. The Philippines has traditionally relied heavily on U.S. support when it comes to combating extremist groups.

Separately, Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Armand Balilo said Tuesday that the U.S. had agreed to provide two C-23 Sherpa aircraft though its Excess Defense Articles program for delivery in December—the latest in a series of recent equipment transfers. The aircraft will be used to monitor Philippine waters, he said, at a time when the U.S. treaty ally is trying to boost its surveillance capabilities to cope with China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.