“No, no, no, he did not say that at all,” said Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay to reporters in Hanoi.
Yes, yes, yes, he did. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in fact said this in Vietnam on September 28, addressing the US: “You are scheduled to hold war games again which China does not want. I will serve notice to you now, this will be the last military exercise.”
You can understand Yasay’s attempt to smooth over what could end up the biggest blunder in his country’s post-colonial history. While Beijing threatens to dismember the Philippines, one island, rock, and shoal at a time, Duterte is trying to break the only thing that protects his country from Beijing, his military alliance with the United States. It would, of course, be difficult for the US to defend the Philippines if the Philippine and American militaries did not regularly exercise together.