Relations between the Philippines and the United States could be headed toward a reboot.
This comes after the December 2 telephone conversation between President Rodrigo Duterte and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.
“The conversation between President Duterte and President-elect Donald Trump went very well and it showed that there is a big possibility that we will have a reboot of [our]relationship [with]the United States,” Palace Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said over Philippine state-run Radyo ng Bayan.
“There are so many aspects in our relationship: military, people-to-people, education, among others,” Andanar added.
On December 2, Duterte said Trump wished him well on his anti-drug campaign, as the Republican billionaire “understood the way we are handling it and I said that there’s nothing wrong in protecting a country.”
The Philippine President, in a video message released by Malacañang, said Trump told him the Philippine government was “doing it (war on illegal drugs) as a sovereign nation, the right way.”
“I could sense a good rapport, an animated President-elect Trump. And he was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem,” Duterte said.
Duterte’s demeanor toward Trump contrasted with his expletive-laden tirades at outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama, who had criticized the bloody drug war.
The relationship has since cooled, with Obama cancelling a bilateral meeting with Duterte at the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in September.
Duterte for his part ordered a stop to joint exercises and naval patrols between the Philippine and US militaries, and announced a “separation” of foreign policy from Washington.
Manila and Washington are treaty allies, with a Mutual Defense Treaty signed back in 1951. Both sides signed a Visiting Forces Agreement in 1998 that governs the stay of American troops during war games, and an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement in 2014 that allows the rotational presence of US soldiers in designated Philippine military camps.
The U.S. considers the Philippines a major non-NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) ally.
The office of President Duterte has claimed that Trump invited Duterte to visit the White House next year during Friday’s phone call. Andanar said the visit had yet to be set.
There is also no schedule yet for the presentation of credentials of U.S. Ambassador-designate Sung Kim, who arrived in Manila last December 1.
Trump’s seven-minute chat with the firebrand Philippine president follows months of uncertainty about one of Washington’s most important Asian alliances, stoked by Duterte’s hostility towards President Obama and repeated threats to sever decades-old defense ties.
Duterte’s anger was unleashed following Obama’s concerns about possible human rights abuses in his war on drugs, during which more than 2,000 people have been killed.
His special adviser, Christopher Go, had earlier said in a text message to media that Trump had invited Duterte to visit the White House next year.
There appeared to be confusion, however. Duterte mentioned an invite to Washington and New York, and that Trump asked him to notify him of his presence “if I’m around”.
Duterte made waves when he visited China in October and announced his “separation” from the United States.
In five months in office, he has upended Philippine foreign policy by berating the United States, pursuing a new alliance with Russia and also China, with which Manila has a history of bitter disputes.