Duterte blames ‘friend’ Trump for Philippines economic woes

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. PHOTO: NOEL CELIS / AFP

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday blamed US President Donald Trump after inflation hit a nine-year high in the Philippines, hurting the image of the populist leader.

It was an unexpected claim from the fiery Duterte, a one-time fierce critic of the United States but who has since embraced Trump after the business tycoon was elected in November, 2016.

When questioned by reporters about the 6.4 percent inflation in August, a nine-year high that exceeded most analysts’ forecasts, Duterte blamed Trump’s economic policies.

“Who started it? America. When America raised its rates, everyone raised theirs as well. That is how it is. There is nothing we can do,” he told reporters.

“Because America… Trump wanted it. Even taxes like excise tax, they raised it. Even import dues,” Duterte said.

He later clarified that he was not angry at his fellow populist, saying: “I will talk to friend Trump”.

“I have nothing against the American people, not the slightest… misgiving against Trump,” he added.

Duterte, who has previously admitted he is not well-versed in economics, did not elaborate on how US economic policies might affect inflation in the Philippines.

Duterte, who took office in mid-2016, had previously been criticised by US officials for his bloody war on drugs that his own administration says has left at least 4,410 suspects dead.

Human rights groups charge that the actual death toll is thrice as high but Trump has brushed aside such concerns, hailing his “great relationship,” with Duterte.

Duterte, who has consistently enjoyed strong approval ratings, also charged that the surge in inflation and the rising prices of food are being used by the opposition against him.