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Ex-Philippine Leader Duterte Rails Against President Marcos and the U.S. in Chinese Media

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Former President Rodrigo Duterte accused the U.S. of inflaming tensions between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, while criticizing his successor Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of supposedly doing America’s bidding.

“The Americans are the ones pushing the Philippine government to go out there and find a quarrel and eventually maybe start a war,” Duterte was quoted as saying in an interview with Communist Party-run Global Times published Friday. “But I do not think that America will die for us.”

Read More: Why the U.S. Faces a Delicate Balancing Act on Countering China in the South China Sea

The former president—who brought Philippines closer to China during his term as part his “independent foreign policy”—said that discussions between Beijing and Manila on the sea dispute won’t prosper under Marcos. “You cannot talk to him because it is the Americans that will tell him what he should say to you,” Duterte said, offering to negotiate with China to ease tensions.

Duterte’s interview with Global Times came out as the Philippines forged closer ties with the U.S. and Japan in the first trilateral summit among the nations hosted by President Joe Biden. Under Marcos, the Philippines has adopted a more assertive stance in the South China Sea where clashes with Chinese vessels have been increasing in the past year.

The former leader also signaled he’s open to speaking out publicly more often to advocate for China and indicated that should he regain a position of influence, he would undo Marcos’s decision to give Americans more access to its military bases.

Read More: The U.S. Military’s Legacy in the Philippines: Thousands of Children Left Behind

Earlier this week, Marcos said he was “horrified” to learn that Duterte supposedly struck a “gentleman’s agreement” with China that restricts Manila from sending repair materials to a crumbling warship serving as its military outpost in the Second Thomas Shoal.

Marcos’s communications office has yet to comment on Duterte’s latest remarks. The U.S. Embassy in Manila, meanwhile, reiterated that America’s commitment to its alliance with the Philippines is “ironclad.”

Marcos has denied that his government is just following U.S. orders, and also said in a Bloomberg News interview last month that he’s not provoking China.

The former president’s comments also show a deepening rift with the incumbent that risks further splitting the ruling alliance, sparked by differences in foreign policy and domestic issues like Marcos’s push to amend the Constitution.

Duterte’s daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte, has largely refrained from commenting on the South China Sea dispute.

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