Reuters International

Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay speaks during a news conference at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay city Metro Manila, Philippines July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Philippines is firmly committed to its alliance with the United States but will not be lectured on human rights and treated like a "little brown brother," the country's Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay said on Thursday.

Speaking in Washington after recent remarks by the Philippines' outspoken new President Rodrigo Duterte that have strained relations with the United States, Manila's main ally, Yasay said some of Duterte's remarks had been misunderstood.

He said Duterte had explained that his call for the withdrawal of U.S. special forces from the southern Philippines was only a temporary measure to keep them out of harm's way while Philippine forces undertook an offensive against Abu Sayyaf militants.

Yasay also said Duterte's opposition to joint maritime patrols with the United States only concerned the Philippines' "exclusive economic zone", not joint patrols within 12 nautical miles.

The latter patrols, aimed at preserving the territorial integrity of the Philippines, "must continue because this is our commitment to the United States," Yasay said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

The Philippines and the United States share concern about China's pursuit of broad territorial claims in the South China Sea, which overlap with the claims of Manila and other neighbours. Washington and Manila agreed earlier this year on joint patrols in the area.

The minister rejected criticism of Duterte's war on drugs, in which thousands have been killed, and said relations with Washington should be based on mutual respect.

"I am asking our American friends, American leaders, to look at our aspirations," he said. "We cannot forever be the little brown brothers of America. ... We have to develop, we have to grow and become the big brother of our own people.

"You (have to) manage it correctly. You do not go to the Philippines and say 'I am going to give you something; I am going to help you grow, but this is the check list you must comply with - we will lecture you on human rights'."

Yasay stressed that Duterte was "firmly committed to keep and respect alliances, including that with the United States."

He said Manila was "not at this point in time" prepared to sit down and discuss its territorial disputes with China bilaterally, given that the two sides differed on what the framework for any such discussions should be.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by James Dalgleish)


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