Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has apologised "profoundly and deeply" to the Jewish community on Sunday (2 October) after he likened himself to Adolf Hitler.

The apology is a significant climb-down from a day earlier when a spokesman for the president denied he made the comparisons and said that anyone seeking to draw a parallel between the two leaders was guilty of a "crude attempt to vilify" Duterte.

Speaking during a nationally broadcasted address, the tough-talking leader acknowledged his comments were widely offensive to Jewish communities across the world, but maintained the reference was only to show how critics tried to portray him.

"I would like to make it [clear] now, here and now, that there was never an intention on my part to derogate the memory of the six million Jews murdered," he said reported Reuters.

"The reference to me was, I was supposedly Hitler, who killed many people."

"I apologise profoundly and deeply to the Jewish community. It was never my intention, but the problem was I was criticised, using Hitler comparing to me."

Duterte made his comments – where he said he would be happy to slaughter the country's three million drug addicts in a similar fashion to the way Hitler massacred the Jews – to reporters at Davao City on Friday (30 September).

The comments were met with immediate international criticism.

"What President Duterte said is not only profoundly inhumane, but it demonstrates an appalling disrespect for human life that is truly heart-breaking for the democratically elected leader of a great country," World Jewish Congress president Ronald S Lauder said.

Israel's foreign ministry said the comments were "unfortunate" and that they were sure Duterte would "find a way to clarify his words".

Duterte made his comments in the wake of international uproar over his war on drugs. More than 3,100 people have been killed in alleged state-sanctioned or vigilante killings since he took office three months ago.