Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he will not agree to a defense treaty with the United States but questioned joint combat exercises between the two which he stated, “will only benefit America”. Duterte questioned the need for joint drills to prepare for potential crises. Duterte has had an uneasy relationship with the U.S. especially when President Barack Obama criticized his deadly anti-drug fight. Duterte has no plan to sign a mutual defense treaty and questioned the need for it.
“I do not mean to cancel or abrogate the military alliances,” Duterte said in a speech before new government officials at the presidential palace. "But let me ask you ... do you really think we need it?"
Duterte mentioned that if a conflict pitting the world’s most powerful nations breaks out, “there will be no more American aid to talk of.” He added that when Russia annexed Crimea, “America wasn't able to do anything.” Duterte has announced he will end the joint combat exercises, China has opposed as well as his defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, pleading for a reconsideration.
Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel said the U.S. values the relationship and wants to keep it on an "even keel." "We're prepared, as we always have been, to honor our commitments and the obligations that we have to the Philippines and we expect the same in return," Russel said at an event held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.