The Philippines' top diplomat, Perfecto Yasay, has assured the US that it is still regarded as a trusted ally but warned that his country will not be lectured on human rights as a pre-condition to receiving help from Washington.

Foreign Secretary Yasay, who was speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank in Washington, said: "I am asking our American friends, American leaders, to look at our aspirations. We cannot forever be the little brown brothers of America ... We have to develop, we have to grow and become the big brother of our own people.

"You [have to] manage it correctly. You do not go to the Philippines and say 'I am going to give you something. I am going to help you grow, but this is the check list you must comply with – we will lecture you on human rights."

Yasay said despite this, the Philippines' newly-elected President Rodrigo Duterte was "firmly committed to keep and respect alliances, including that with the United States."

The Foreign Secretary was also quick to address remarks made by the outspoken president, which has strained ties with the US. Bilateral talks between US President Barack Obama and Duterte scheduled to be held at the Asean summit in Laos were called off. The Philippines however claimed that Duterte had intentionally skipped the meeting because he did not like the Americans.

Yasay told the audience that some of Duterte's remarks had been misunderstood, Reuters reports. On Duterte's call for the withdrawal of US special forces from southern Philippines, he said that this was only a temporary measure. He claimed that this was aimed at keeping the Americans "out of harm's way" while the Philippines forces launched an offensive against the Abu Sayyaf militants.

On Duterte's opposition to joint maritime patrols with the US, Yasay explained that Duterte was only opposed to such patrols within the exclusive economic zone. Joint patrols aimed at preserving the territorial integrity of the Philippines "must continue because this is our commitment to the United States," he added.

Rodrigo Duterte
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's remarks has been miscontrued, claims Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay. Erik De Castro/Reuters