Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte struck a rare modest tone while holding talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday, 7 August. The firebrand leader, known for his foul-mouthed remarks, said he was a "humble friend" of the US in Southeast Asia.

Duterte has been having a cordial relationship with President Donald Trump after the change of guard in the White House. The Philippine leader's relations with the US were strained under Barack Obama due to Washington's criticism of his human rights record.

Tillerson, who was in Manila for a regional security summit, made a courtesy call to the presidential palace.
It is still unclear what exactly transpired at the meeting but the two were believed to have discussed a range issues.

Ahead of the meeting, Duterte's spokesperson Ernesto Abello told reporters: "We expect the president to discuss with Secretary Tillerson a wide range of relevant issues, including the security situation in Marawi, the global threat of terrorism, increasing Philippines-US economic and people-to-people engagement, Balangiga bells, among others."

The thorny issue of poor human rights record under Duterte is also understood to have figured prominently as the two sides hinted they were open to discussing the matter.

The US has been providing training, reconnaissance and other facilities to the Philippines forces, which are currently fighting Islamic State-linked terrorists in Marawi. Washington said its technical assistance will prove vital in the ongoing fighting.

"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 told reporters prior to his talks with Duterte.

Duterte meeting Rex Tillerson
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte meets US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a meeting at the presidential palace in Manila, Philippines Erik De Castro/Reuters