By Genalyn D. Kabiling
The Philippines and China have apparently agreed to put friendship ahead of its territorial spat for now.
President Rodrigo Duterte has placed his trust in China to honor its word not to build any structures on Panatag Shoal to avoid jeopardizing the friendship between the two countries.
The President said he recently obtained the assurance from the Chinese government on the matter and believed it has “word of honor.”
“I was informed that they are not going to build anything sa Panatag. Out of respect for our friendship they will stop it. Hindi nila gagalawin ‘yan. Sabi ng China, ‘Huwag kayong mag-alaala, magkaibigan tayo,’” Duterte said in a press conference upon arrival in Manila from his two-nation swing in Asia.
“That was the assurance given by the Chinese government. They are not going to build anything sa Panatag, because they want our friendship. They [won’t] do anything to place it in jeopardy,” he said.
Duterte declined to reveal the source of the information but believed that China will keep its word. “China has a word of honor… But know about China kung anong sabihin niya, in good stead, talagang ginagawa niya,” he said.
The President earlier caused a diplomatic stir when he declared he could not stop China from building on Scarborough Shoal also known as Panatag Shoal due to its military might.
China media reports earlier said preparatory work for a monitoring station at Scarborough Shoal will begin this year. However, the Chinese foreign ministry dismissed the reports as “not true,” saying it value its relations with the Philippines.
The President, meantime, has allowed China to pass through local waters as part of its right to innocent passage.
Duterte, however, asked China to inform the Philippines about its passage ahead of time and not to harass Filipino coast guard ships patrolling the area.