Why Did Obama Cancel His Meeting With Philippines President?

President Barack Obama has reportedly cancelled his meeting that was to take place today, with Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, which would have been their very first meeting. The was cancelled on the grounds that Duterte described Obama in obscene terms, as was reported by a White House spokesman.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, is a plain-spoken populist who is known for his colorful remarks and his popular campaign against illegal drugs due to which thousands of people have died. He described Obama as a “son of a bitch” to reporters on Monday, a day ahead of the planned meeting between them in Laos, where the South Asian leaders are also meeting for annual summits. Duterte has however later expressed his regret over his comments.


Obama learned about the insult as he emerged from the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou, China. Obama told the reporters that he always makes sure before he meets someone, their meeting is actually going to be productive and that something important will get done. The same he had tried to do before he was going to meet Duterte, but on learning of the insult left any little doubt that meeting would not proceed as planned. Now, Obama plans to meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye instead, expecting to discuss the agenda on the response to North Korea’s latest missile tests. For the first meeting with Duterte, Obama wanted to address the legacy of U.S. bombing during the Vietnam war. He was also set to address on the importance he has placed on Southeast Asia in his foreign and economic policy which would have set the stage for three days of meetings with the regional leaders. It is said he however had no plans to pull any jabs on his concerns about human rights abuses in the Philippines. It was going to be treaty ally when meeting Duterte.

While Duterte had said to the reporters that if Obama was planning to raise the human rights issue it would be really ‘rude’ of Obama and would prompt him to curse at Obama, which he did using a Filipino phrase for “son of a bitch”. This unfortunately isn’t the first time Duterte has cursed at a world leader. He had earlier in May called Pope Francis a “son of a whore” and also called U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg a “gay son of a whore”.

Now the unusual open tensions are going to threaten to overshadow the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia Summits in Laos from today to Thursday. The 10-member ASEAN will meet leaders of other regional powers: China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, Russia and the United States. The Philippines has been a key U.S. ally in its dispute with China over the South China Sea, in which Washington blames Beijing for militarizing a vital global trade route and jeopardizing freedom of movement at sea and in the air. However, China rejects those accusations, and in turn blames the United States for ratcheting up tensions unnecessarily. We will only by the end of the week find out exactly whether these tensions cause any harm or bring out good results after the summits.