By Argyll Geducos
Malacañang said President Duterte was not subservient to China even after he allowed Chinese fishermen to fish in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), arguing that this was a way of protecting the Filipino people.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement as the country marked the third anniversary of the victorious Hague Ruling which recognizes the Philippines’ rights to the disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea.
In an interview over ANC, Panelo defended anew the President’s remarks, saying it was not an act of cowardice as Duterte was only thinking of protecting the Filipino people.
“The President is not subservient to China, he is subservient to the interest of the Filipino people. The President is precisely enforcing that provision on protecting and serving the people,” he said.
“The head of the government is the president and so the sacred duty of serving and protecting the Filipino people is bestowed on the President and he is precisely doing that,” he added.
Upon assuming the presidency in 2016, Duterte opted to set aside the Hague Ruling in order to build better relations with China. He, however, promised to bring it up again with Chinese President Xi Jinping before his term ends.
In the interview, Panelo reiterated the stand of the President that China was in possession of the entire South China Sea.
“We’re forgetting that China is in possession. That is, I think the whole premise. China is in possession,” he said.
“If they’re in possession and there is a threat of war coming from them, then do you want to tell me we’re going to risk the lives of our people by making aggressive actions? China will not be sitting idly there,” he added.
Panelo, meanwhile, said that for now, the Philippine government has been utilizing diplomatic negotiations instead of going to war with China.
“You try to negotiate. You don’t go to war with them ’cause you cannot win it. You will be losing lives and properties. So he (President Duterte) is not violating, he is in fact enforcing the Constitution protecting the Filipino people from damage,” he said.
“This President, just like a chess player, is anticipating what would come if he does this in that. In other words, he’s trying to avoid armed hostilities between the two countries that could result, that could trigger to bloodier encounters, that could lead to war,” he added.
The Palace official also added that the government has not ignored the Hague Ruling, and was using it as a basis to assert the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea.
“What we cannot get out of the Arbitral Ruling because nobody wants to enforce it, or nobody has the capacity to enforce the same, then we use diplomatic negotiations to achieve whatever benefits that you have received from this Arbitral Ruling,” he added.
On Thursday, Panelo said that the government was doing everything legal and feasible to address the issue of the West Philippine Sea.
“That’s the tact that the President has decided. Eh, kung makukuha natin sa diplomatic negotiations, lalong magaling (If we can get it through diplomatic negotiations, then good),” he said.
“Ang position natin, sa atin yun (Our position is that’s ours). That’s ours. We will do everything legal and feasible to assert our ownership over the same, or sovereign rights,” he added.
Duterte has been criticized for supposedly shelving the arbitral ruling which stated that the Philippines has rights over the West Philippine Sea.
Recently, he was criticized for allowing China to fish in the country’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) despite the constitutional provision protecting the EEZ and reserving its resources for Filipinos.
Early this week, Duterte said he will educate the people that what he did was not unconstitutional in his upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA).