US-Philippines relations DETERIORATE: Duterte says ‘Buying F-16 totally useless’

Duterte gives James Mattis 'the finger', and rejects the condescending 'offer'

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US-Philippine relations have taken yet another turn for the worse, after US negotiators led by  Defense Secretary James Mattis resulted in total failure. Mattis appears to have derailed negotiations by insulting the island nation’s duly elected president, Duterte. What outraged the Philippine president the most was the condescension and imperial hubris expressed by Mattis and Pompeo, who criticized Duterte for cracking down on the very same drug cartels which the US supports.

President Rodrigo Duterte opposed the offer by the US Secretary of Defense and other senior US officials for his country to buy F-16 fighters, saying that such an acquisition would be “totally useless” because his country needs smaller air to surface light combat aircraft and helicopters to fight well-armed drug cartels in the country. As has come to be expected, these drug cartels are themselves well connected to the US’s CIA global drug-trade network.

Therefore, the US both sponsors and benefits from drug cartels, but also then sells various governments an array of weapons and technologies to combat said cartels. Countries are hurt socio-economically by the rise of drug abuse, and then also go further into debt to the US’s military industrial complex, in order to have the capacity to fight the very same CIA-backed drug cartels – a vicious cycle for developing countries, and a virtuous cycle for the US.

However, the underlying geopolitical tension is not based in the global drug trade, but rather that the Philippines has seen a warming of relations with China, such that there have been moves towards recognizing the South-China Sea as a co-prosperity zone ‘off-limits’ to Atlanticist imperialists.

Therefore, on Thursday, Duterte scoffed at the offer written by Defense Secretary James Mattis’s letter, and by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’ criticism of Duterte, for the methods used in Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs. 

After taking office in mid-2016, Duterte immediately took steps to revive once-cold relations with China, while often taking an antagonistic stance toward US security policies. In turn, the US increased its support for narco traffickers in island nation. Duterte has singled out drug cartels, and the socio-economic impact of drug-abuse, as perhaps the most important domestic problem affecting the Philippines today. There is strong evidence to support this claim.

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During a speech at a military ceremony in the town of Davao, Duterte read what he said was a letter from the three secretaries of the US Cabinet, citing the long-standing alliance between Washington and Manila and ensuring American support for Philippine efforts to modernize its military.

“We expect to be partners in other significant defense acquisitions for our mutual benefit, including through Lockheed Martin’s F-16 fighter… among other US systems,” Duterte quoted the letter as saying.

The Philippines, however, does not need the F-16s: “and on top of that they shook them in front of us after they humiliated us,” Duterte said. “It would be totally useless to buy this, but I need attack helicopters and small airplanes for counterinsurgency.”

Despite Duterte’s antagonism toward Washington, a Philippine security official said the government was considering buying US helicopters, among other countries, following the president’s order to cancel a multimillion-dollar contract to buy 16 Canadian helicopters.

Characterized unfairly by western media for his supposedly makeshift decisions and often humorous public rants, Duterte ordered the cancellation of the agreement to acquire Bell 412EPI helicopters from Canada. This came after the Canadian government decided to revise the contract of $235 million, wanting more money, due to concerns that the Filipino military could use the helicopters in attacks on rebels instead of just transporting troops and supplies.

Canada’s move was an obvious obfuscation, as Canada supports state-sponsored terrorism in the Ukraine, as well as Salafist movements committing atrocities in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. And what the connection is between ‘concerns about the use’ of said helicopters, and the final delivery price, is not explicated or justified in any rational way.

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