Philippines Trade Minister Ramon Lopez has clarified that the country will continue to maintain economic ties with the US, despite President Rodrigo Duterte's latest announcement that he plans to sever ties with Washington.

"The president did not talk about separation," Lopez said. "In terms of economic (ties), we are not stopping trade, investment with America. The president specifically mentioned his desire to strengthen further ties with China and Asean region, which we have been trading with for centuries."

On 20 October, Duterte continued his anti-American rhetoric while on an official visit to Beijing and said: "Your honours, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States... Both in military... not maybe social, but economics also."

However, Lopez clarified that what the president meant was that the Philippines was "breaking being too much dependent on one side".

"But we definitely won't stop the trade and investment activities with the West, specifically the US," he added.

If implemented, dissolution of ties between the two countries would be a concern for the US, which considers Manila an important ally. For now, the White House has decided to hold off any reactions until anything is made official. "We have not received any official requests from Filipino officials to alter any of our many issues where we bilaterally cooperate," spokesman Eric Schultz said.

Duterte China visit
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte plans to strengthen ties with Russia and China Reuters

Distancing the Philippines from the US, Duterte plans to instead strengthen ties with China and Russia. "Maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to [President Vladimir] Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world - China, Philippines and Russia," he said. "It's the only way."

While a split would affect trade, the US is also concerned about military relations between the two countries. "The key question is whether Duterte is going to rescind our access to our bases in the Philippines," Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council told CNN.

Philippines plays a major role in the maritime security initiative by the Obama administration as Southeast Asian countries continue to resist pressure from Beijing over the South China Sea dispute. With Duterte now attempting to partner with China, the US bases in the country may be in jeopardy.

"If the Philippines are out — and they're in the thick of it — that starts to raise questions about our whole approach," Manning added.