Presidents Trump and Duterte seem to be well on the road to becoming good friends. With Chinese President Xi’s ‘fondness’ for Trump apparently grossly exaggerated, Putin remaining as distant from Trump as ever and European leaders still looking at the White House hoping to see Barack Obama watering the daisies, it seems that Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte may end up being one of Trump’s best friends in the wider political world.
The two leaders had a phone conversation which both sides claimed was very positive.
Duterte has praised Trump even before becoming POTUS and while other world leaders have grown dismayed at Trump’s surprisingly hawkish policies, Duterte continues to offer warm words for The Donald.
The White House issued a short statement on the positive nature of the phone call.
NEW: Readout of President Donald J. Trump’s Call with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines pic.twitter.com/Cww6pHDDZQ
— Steve Kopack (@SteveKopack) April 30, 2017
Likewise, The Philippines issued an equally upbeat statement which read,
“President Donald Trump called President Duterte yesterday evening. The ambit of the conversation between the two leaders includes the expression of commitment of U.S. President Trump to the PH-US alliance and his interest in developing a warm, working relationship with President Duterte”.
The statement continued,
“President Trump likewise mentioned that he looks forward to his visit to the Philippines in November for the East Asia Summit”.
Needless to say, this marks a departure from the time in 2016 when Barack Obama cancelled a meeting with Duterte after the Philippines President called Obama the ‘son of a whore’.
Duterte thus far has managed to maintain historically ground-breaking good relations with China while at the same time continuing to court former colonial master the United States under Donald Trump.
While some speculate that Duterte may not be able to keep up the balancing act for long, the reality is that Duterte may be able to demonstrate that it is possible to be a former US dependant while still engaging in good relations with both sides of the multi-polar world.
Both leaders have taken a tough line on law and order domestically, both are famous for their outspoken rhetoric and both seek to refine the role of their nations in the world. Duterte’s statements could easily be boiled down to ‘Make Philippines Great Again’.
If Duterte is indeed able to maintain respectful and indeed productive relations with China and the US, Philippines could become an important power broker in East Asian affairs.
Those who underestimate Duterte’s ability to pull this off, do so at their own peril.