In the midst of Davao city mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s word war with the ambassadors of the United States and Australia over the mayor’s rape jokes about Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill, the Duterte camp warned the US and Australia that it was prepared to change foreign policy and start direct talks with China over the territorial disputes in the South China Sea as reported by the Inquirer.
Duterte’s spokesperson Peter Laviña said in a television interview yesterday that mayor Duterte is ready to talk directly with China. “[Duterte] is supporting multilateral efforts to rein in China but at the same time, he [is] open to bilateral talks,” said Laviña.
“[Duterte] was willing to dialogue with China about ‘joint development of the resources of the South China Sea. Eventually, we need China’s investments and technology”, Laviña added.
Duterte’s stance on this issue is a sharp contrast to President Benigno Aquino III’s efforts of improving defense ties with the United States and Australia to bolster the Philippine’s position in its sea row with China. President Aquino has refused direct talks with China regarding territorial disputes and even challenged in the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration sweeping claims of ownership of China over all territories stated in an ancient map—the authenticity of which is disputed.
Duterte’s anti-US stance according to the Inquirer dates back to May 16, 2002, when a bomb went off at Hotel Evergreen in Davao City. The bomb was traced by police investigators to American Michael Meiring. The suspect was injured in the explosion and was taken to a hospital. Authorities filed a criminal case against the American suspect, however, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) spirited Meiring out of the hospital a week after the incident, flew the latter to Singapore and finally to the United States. The FBI’s interference infuriated Duterte and he had since been accusing the US of running covert operations against Moro rebels in Mindanao.
Duterte's anti-US sentiments was reported to be one of the reasons he has endeared himself to left-leaning activists.