Asia Pacific / Politics

Duterte says South China Sea policy to be independent of U.S., supports killing corrupt journalists


Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday his country would not rely on long-term security ally the United States, signaling greater independence from Washington in dealing with China and the disputed South China Sea.

The Philippines has traditionally been one of Washington’s staunchest supporters in its standoff with Beijing over the South China Sea, a vital trade route where China has built artificial islands, airstrips and other military facilities.

Duterte, the tough-talking mayor of Davao who swept to victory in a May 9 election, has backed multilateral talks to settle rows over the South China Sea that would include the United States, Japan and Australia as well as claimant nations.

Asked by reporters if he would push for bilateral talks with China, Duterte replied: “We have this pact with the West, but I want everybody to know that we will be charting a course of our own. “It will not be dependent on America. And it will be a line that is not intended to please anybody but the Filipino interest.”

Also Tuesday, Duterte said Tuesday that corrupt journalists are legitimate targets of assassination, prompting outrage from Philippine media groups.

Duterte told reporters that there is justification for killing journalists who take bribes or engage in other corrupt activities. “Just because you’re a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch,” Duterte said when asked how he would address the problem of media killings in the Philippines after a reporter was shot dead in Manila last week.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines described the comments as “appalling,” conceding that there are corruption problems in the media industry but saying that this does not justify murdering reporters.