Duterte may discuss ‘mutual respect’ with Obama

MANILA — President Duterte is expected to raise the issue of “mutual respect” when he bumps into US President Barack Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meeting in Peru next month.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella told reporters on Friday the President was unlikely to bring up specific “government issues” with Obama in case they agree to meet on the sidelines of the Nov. 19-20 Apec summit.

“But if you will notice where the President comes from, it’s basically that he wants to be able to establish mutual respect and dignity and acceptance and support,” Abella said.

“So if there is anything at all, I think what would matter during that conversation is … to be able to establish a sense of rapport, a sense of mutual respect and not so much in particular issues, specific issues, but the establishment of warm relationship,” Abella said.

He said the President had made mutual respect and noninterference key foundations in reformatting the country’s foreign policy. He said Mr. Duterte showed how he “deeply valued” these ideals during his official visit to Japan, which he called a “longstanding friend and ally.”

Obama abruptly canceled his formal meeting with Mr. Duterte at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Laos in September after the Philippine leader called him a “son of a bitch” for bringing up human rights issues in the brutal war on drugs.

But Mr. Duterte said that he approached Obama, and they shook hands and had a brief chat where he clarified that his slur was not directed at the US leader. According to Mr. Duterte, Obama told him: “My men will talk to you.”

But instead of being contrite in the following weeks, the President stepped up his insults and tirades against Obama and the US government and declared military and economic “separation” from the United States and the end of war games between Filipino and American troops. Mr. Duterte later clarified the Philippines would not sever diplomatic ties with the United States but only pursue an independent foreign policy.

Abella said the President was “simply underlining certain things, what he has been doing” in repeatedly declaring his desire to distance from America and to review the defense pacts between Manila and Washington.

“And at the right time, the things, relationships … even the economic situation, will also come under its own corrections and it will be worked out,” Abella said.