ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines
President Rodrigo Duterte has said he is a humble friend of the United States during his meeting with American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the presidential palace in capital Manila Monday.
"I am your humble friend in Southeast Asia," ABS-CBN quoted the president as telling Tillerson, whose courtesy call came in the wake of Duterte's string of stinging retorts against Washington's criticism of his anti-drug campaign.
Earlier media reports said Tillerson was expected to raise concerns about the human rights situation in the Philippines and discuss the ongoing crisis in Marawi when he met Filipino officials.
It was unclear, however, whether the U.S. secretary brought up the issue before Duterte, who has repeatedly badmouthed the U.S., the EU and the UN following criticism of his so-called war on illegal drugs.
GMA News quoted Duterte as saying the diplomats he met at the presidential palace, Malacanang, had "toned down" their stance on human rights.
"Mostly, they have considerably toned down on human rights. Nobody -- [only] in passing, human rights [was mentioned]... But mostly terrorism, but no more human rights were asked," he was quoted as telling reporters during an unscheduled media interview after the meeting with Tillerson and other top foreign diplomats.
Duterte also met Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, as well as new envoys from Chile, Colombia, India and Austria, the report said.
In another news conference late evening, Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte thanked Bishop during their meeting for Australia's support for the Philippines amid the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City.
Abella said: "Ms. Bishop, in turn, promised continued cooperation and support especially for the rehabilitation of Marawi."
Earlier, Tillerson said the U.S. had been providing the Philippines with surveillance capabilities, training, information and aircraft to help it fight the months-long siege of Marawi City by Daesh-linked and Abu Sayyaf militants.
According to him, the equipment includes a few Cessna aircraft and a few drones.
He said they would help the Philippines battle an enemy that fights in a way that most people have never had to deal with.
"We think they are beginning to get that situation under control...But the real challenge is going to come with once they have the fighting brought to an end, how to deal with the conditions on the ground to ensure it does not re-emerge," Tillerson was quoted as saying.
The U.S. secretary also said there was no contradiction presented by the U.S. decision to help his country fight the militants, whose insurgency in the Philippines had stoked global fears about the Daesh group exporting violence into Southeast Asia and beyond.
Source: Anadolu Agency