Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the cancellation of the country’s purchase of police rifles from the United States, saying Manila would look for a cheaper supplier.
“We will just have to look for another source that is cheaper and maybe as durable,” Duterte said in a televised speech on Monday.
Last month, US Senate aides told Reuters that Washington had halted the planned sale of some 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines’ national police after Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, opposed it because of what he referred to as Manila’s human rights violations.
The relations between the US and the Philippines, a long-time ally, have been complicated lately by Duterte’s angry reaction to criticism from Washington of his violent battle to rid the country of illegal drugs.
Last month, in his strongest tirade so far against Washington, Duterte told US President Barack Obama to “go to hell,” adding that he may eventually decide to “break up with America.”
He said Washington had refused to sell some weapons to his country, but he did not care because Russia and China were willing sources.
Members of the Philippine National Police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team pose for a picture outside a police station in the capital, Manila, September 15, 2014. (Photo by Reuters)
The Philippine president has tried to reach out to China and Russia amid an uneasy relationship with Washington.
Also in October, Duterte announced a military and economic “separation” from the US, calling on American military personnel to leave the Philippines.
His call drew attention to the rotating force of 600 US troops who had been deployed to the southern Philippines between 2002 and 2014. At its peak, the US had 1,200 troops there.
The Filipino president said Washington had to quit treating Manila like a “dog with a leash.”
An open break with Manila could create problems for Washington in a region where China’s influence has grown.
More than 2,300 people have been killed in police operations in connection with the anti-narcotics campaign since Duterte took office in late June.