The president of the Philippines says the US and the EU can stop aid to his country if they wanted, while his foreign minister says Manila wants to break free from a "shackling dependency" on Washington.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday told the United States and the European Union that if they were unhappy with his drugs war, they could withdraw their assistance to his country.
"Do not understand me and if you think it is high time for you to withdraw your assistance, go ahead. We will not beg for it," he told the US and the EU, referring to their criticism of his anti-drug campaign.
Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana gave weight to Duterte's comments while speaking at a foreign correspondents’ forum in Manila on Friday.
“I think we can live without [US] aid. Our congress is actually giving us money now for the procurement of equipment. I believe they will give us more if we don’t have a source of other funds,” he said.
The West has criticized the campaign which has killed more than 3,000 people but latest polls have shown Filipinos overwhelmingly endorsed Duterte's war on crime.
Duterte has already called for a withdrawal of US troops from his country and has said annual joint drills with the US would not be held from next year anymore.
On Thursday, Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay defended the president’s stance, saying Duterte wants to liberate the Philippines from a “shackling dependency” on the United States.
Yasay said Manila is “compelled to realign” its foreign policy and not submit to US demands and interests any more.
“Breaking away from the shackling dependency of the Philippines to effectively address both internal and external security threats has become imperative in putting an end to our nation’s subservience to United States’ interests.”
The top diplomat stressed that “America has failed us” and has never fully respected the sovereignty of the Philippines since it gained independence from the US about 70 years ago.
Yasay said that the Philippines would seek to engage with China, and would be mindful of the lessons it had learned from being too close to Washington.
“Our past mistakes in fostering and strengthening our friendship with our white big brother will be instructive for this purpose,” he said.
Asked about the ongoing criticism from Manila, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States was "mindful of the rhetoric."
A survey released on Thursday signaled a huge jump in support from the May elections, which Duterte won but with just 37.6 percent of the votes.
According to the poll by Social Weather Stations, 76 percent of Filipinos are "satisfied" with Duterte's performance against just 11 percent of people who are "dissatisfied".
"I would like to just give an advice to all the human rights (critics) shouting now, local or international, I said you can all go to hell for it is never wrong for a president and the police and the military to protect its citizens," Duterte said.