With his nearing visit to the Philippines, a White House senior administration official bared that President Donald Trump has formed a good relationship with President Rodrigo Duterte despite the latter’s verbal attacks on the United States (US).
“President Duterte, he’s spoken with, they’ve had exchanges of letter. I think there’s a warm rapport there,” the official said on Tuesday during a briefing on Trump’s trip to Asia.
“And so the President will have frank and friendly discussions in his first meeting with Mr. Duterte,” the official added.
The official, who was not named in the briefing transcript by the US Embassy in Manila, further said that Trump was “very much looking forward to his first in-person meeting with Duterte,” and apart from letters, they have also exchanged phone calls.
Despite the two countries having long relations, Duterte has previously criticized the US in some of his speeches and statements. It can be recalled that he announced his “separation” from the US during his visit to China last year. The Philippine President was also angered when the Obama administration condemned the killings in Duterte’s war on drugs.
However, Trump has not openly criticized Duterte back. In fact, the American President phoned Duterte praising him for his “unbelievable job on the drug problem” in April, with the White House calling it a “very friendly conversation.”
Former Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a previous statement, “The ambit of the conversation between the two leaders includes the expression of commitment of US President Trump to the PH-US alliance and his interest in developing a warm, working relationship with President Duterte.”
“The amount of cooperation that’s taking place below the leader level and made possible by our longstanding relationship and alliance with the Philippines is still very robust. And that expands to areas like counterterror, all of the close people-to-people ties between the country, and human rights as well,” the official added.
On the subject of human rights, Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, slammed Trump for this recent development revealed by the White House official.
“Trump’s explicit eagerness to meet with the architect of a killing campaign that has resulted in the deaths of more than 12,000 men, women, and children over the past 16 months is more than a grievous insult to injury for family members of victims,” Kine told The Guardian.
Trump will be touring Asia from November 3-14, with his scheduled arrival in the Philippines on the 12th.