Goldberg: U.S. did not fail the Philippines

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The United States' envoy in Manila, Philip Goldberg, says his country has not failed the Philippines. This is his reaction to President Rodrigo Duterte and Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay saying that "America has failed us."

Goldberg on Friday paid Yasay a visit at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City for a "farewell lunch." He is ending his three-year tour of duty in Manila in November.


Answering journalists' questions about Duterte and Yasay's statements, Goldberg said, "No. The United States is a good friend of the people of the Philippines and works continually with the government and the people of the Philippines to make it a better relationship."

He went on to mention instances when Washington came to Manila's side: relief and recovery aid in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013; cooperation in fighting modern slavery that led to the Philippines being upgraded to Tier 1 in the U.S. government's latest Trafficking in Persons Report; assistance in fighting illegal drugs and terrorism.

Goldberg also enumerated recent financial help from Washington: $66 million in increased Foreign Military Funding, of which $42 million was handed to Manila in 2015 to boost its maritime security capabilities.

"So I think that it's a very fruitful relationship that benefits both sides. It has and it continues to and will, in the future, I hope," Goldberg added.

No official word

In many of Duterte's recent speeches, he lashed out at the U.S., saying he would consider breaking ties with it and instead build alliances with Russia and China, both rivals of the U.S. in the quest for global prominence.

Duterte said he would end the yearly war games with the U.S. military, opt out of joint maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea, and reassess whether to push through with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

However, Goldberg said the U.S. government has not received any official notice from the Philippine government on those matters.

That means the alliance and the accompanying agreements between the two countries are still in place.

"The tone on our side and what we do every day is to make sure that our alliance and our friendship and the people-to-people relationship, the commercial and business relationship continues. That's what we want," Goldberg said.

"I and my government can't control everything that happens on this side," he added.


Goldberg acknowledged "discordant notes" from Duterte and his Cabinet but he said a diplomat must take those "less pleasant things" in stride.

Duterte had called Goldberg "bakla" — the Filipino equivalent of the English slang "faggot." It appears Duterte resented Goldberg's criticism of his war on illegal drugs, particularly alleged extra-judicial killings.

Goldberg shrugged off the insult. "You have to be, as a diplomat, an optimist. And when I say that our relationship will endure, that's what we want. That's what we are working towards. And we try not to listen to every piece of noise that comes out," he said.

Freedom of navigation

Whether or not the alliance continues, Goldberg said the U.S. will continue freedom-of-navigation exercises in the South China Sea, with or without the Philippines.

"We will continue exercising our rights under international law," he said.

He noted that the ruling from a United Nations-sanctioned tribunal invalidating China's sweeping claim over the disputed waters affirms not just Manila's maritime rights but Washington's as well - when it comes to freedom of navigation in the high seas.

'Great affection'

As Goldberg wraps up his time in Manila, he says it's the happy moments he will take with him when he leaves.

"My takeaway is great affection for the country and the people, among the warmest and friendliest people that I've met - and I've served now on four continents. And so that is what I would like to remember."

Goldberg will be replaced in Manila by Sung Kim, currently the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Korea and Japan.//