LIMA, Peru — Goodbye, Asia. Hello, Europe?
President Rodrigo Duterte, in a bizarre turn of phrase, told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday that the Philippines had been “longing to be part of Europe.”
In the first bilateral meeting between the two leaders, Mr. Duterte, who had long expressed disdain for the European Union, inexplicably remarked that he wished for his country to be part of Europe.
“I have been looking for this moment to meet you, Mr. President, not only because you represent a great country but [because of your leadership] too,” he began.
“And we’ve been longing to be part also of — despite the distance — we have been longing to be part of Europe, especially in commerce and trade around the world,” Mr. Duterte told the Russian leader.
The Philippine president proceeded to talk, in his typical rambling style, about the “hypocrisy” of the West in intervening in the affairs of other countries while advancing their own interests.
“They want to seem to start a war but are afraid to go to war. That is what’s wrong with America and the others. They are waging war in so many places: in Vietnam, Afghanistan and in Iraq,” he said.
“And for one single reason that there was a weapon of mass destruction [in Iraq] and there was none. They insist, if you are allied with them that they follow you. They go to the Korean war, nothing happened. They did not defeat them,” Mr. Duterte said.
The talk between the two leaders was held at about 12 noon Saturday (1 a.m. Manila time) in a hotel room under tight security on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Economic Leaders Meeting here. The media were allowed to cover only the first 10 minutes before being shepherded out.
It was the first meeting between the Russian and Filipino leaders, though Mr. Duterte had been making plenty of friendly overtures toward the latter.
Duterte in China to promote economic ties
Last week, the Philippine president spoke about his readiness to join a “new world order” under the leadership of China and Russia.
Putin, for his part, expressed his hope for the diplomatic ties between Russia and the Philippines to flourish.
He congratulated Mr. Duterte on winning the election on May 9, which he described as an auspicious date, as it fell on “a very pride day, a public holiday that marks the victory in the great patriotic war over the Nazi group.”
The Russian president credited Mr. Duterte for laying the groundwork for stronger ties with Russia.
“Well, you have been able to do a lot in a short period of time in terms of developing all round partnership between our countries and with respect to promoting greater trust and confidence between us,” he said.