05:17 GMT26 September 2020
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    President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte has once again threatened to say "bye-bye, America" as a US aid organization put on hold a decision to renew a major aid package to the country.

    The US government agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, announced earlier this week that its board had postponed a vote on renewing the development assistance package in order to conduct a review of the rule of law and civil liberties in the country, AP reports.

    Another aid package was scheduled after the previous five-year, $434 million poverty reduction program wound up in May under Duterte's predecessor. Now, it will be shelved until the next board review in May 2017.

    Duterte, however, obviously believed the package had been canceled, and lashed out at the decision as he understood it from the southern town of Davao December 17.

    "We can survive without American money," he said. "But you know, America, you might also be put to notice. Prepare to leave the Philippines, prepare for the eventual repeal or the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement," he said.

    "You know, tit for tat… if you can do this, so (can) we. It ain't a one-way traffic," Duterte added. "Bye-bye, America, and work on the protocols that will eventually move you out of the Philippines," he said, Reuters reported.

    This is not the first time Duterte has threatened to end the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), signed in 1998, which governs the legal status of the thousands of US troops that conduct joint combat exercises and humanitarian assistance operations in the Philippines, or to disrupt the relationship between the defense treaty partners in other ways.

    Since taking office in June, Duterte has said more than once that he will end joint exercises between US and Filipino troops, and has courted favor with China and Russia. In this particular outburst, he said China had "the kindest soul of all" for offering what he called was significant financial assistance.

    "So, what do I need America for?" he asked, according to AP.

    He also said Russia did not "insult people" or "interfere."

    However, Duterte also implied that he might get along with President-elect Donald Trump.

    "I have talked to Trump, he was very nice, very courteous," he said. "I could not sense any hostile drift, or even the manner he was saying it, so, in deference, I'll just wait."

    "I will let Obama fade away and if he disappears, then I will begin to reassess," Duterte said.

    In a phone call with Trump, the frequently-profane Duterte recalled commenting, "I like your mouth; it's like mine." Trump said, "Yes, Mr. President, we're similar," he reported, according to AP. "And you know, people with the same feathers flock together."

    The US, the EU, the UN and human rights organizations around the world have reacted with dismay to Duterte's war on drugs, which has resulted in a wave of violence. More than 2,000 suspected drug dealers or users have been killed in what are billed as gun battles with police, with thousands more violent deaths perhaps not yet accounted for.

    Duterte has been unapologetic about the violence the crackdown has unleashed.


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