MANILA

Duterte ‘fiercely protective’ of PH sovereignty, says Palace

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is “fiercely protective” of the Philippines’ sovereignty, Malacañang said Friday, September 13, as it assured the public that the Chief Executive would not be cowed by possible intimidation from other countries.

“The President will not allow nor sit idly in silence, respecting any action by the international community in derogation thereof,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

“He is fiercely protective of the country’s sovereignty,” he added.

Panelo gave the assurance, after Vice President Leni Robredo said Thursday, September 12, that it was “profoundly disappointing and extremely irresponsible” for Duterte to set aside Manila’s legal victory against Beijing to pave the way for the two countries’ planned joint oil and gas exploration.

The potential site of joint exploration between the two countries is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Robredo, however, stressed that the impending deal should not come “at the expense of upholding (Manila’s) rights” to its waters.

“Selling that future for a gas deal with China is a shameful way of abandoning that responsibility,” the Vice President said.

Panelo chided Robredo, who he said may have been carried away by the “nitpicking and habitual engagement in useless and unproductive semantics” of Duterte’s critics and detractors.

He added that what was “profoundly disappointing and extremely irresponsible” is her “evolving penchant of finding fault in every word the President says, as well as issuing misplaced and flamboyant remarks against it.”

“The problem with my friend Vice President Leni Robredo is the inability of her political advisers to comprehend the complexities of our current situation with China,” the Palace official said.

“She may want to change them with some erudite intellectuals knowledgeable in geopolitics and in the art of diplomacy,” he added.

Panelo then told Robredo that the Constitution allows the Philippines’s joint exploration deal with China, as it would provide “mutual benefit” to the two countries, despite Manila’s impasse with Beijing with regard to territorial conflict.

He also maintained that the President “is not, in any way, nor by any stretch, surrendering our rights over the West Philippine Sea.”

“What he meant when he said that he will first set aside the ruling is that he would first focus on exploring the possibility of getting something from the area that would benefit the Filipino people pending the continuing diplomatic and peaceful negotiation of our territorial dispute with China,” he said.

“It would certainly be the height of folly and naïveté if the Philippines were to ignore areas of investment that our country badly needs to fuel our rapidly expanding growth,” Panelo added.

The Palace official further claimed that bolstering Philippines’ ties with China by channeling efforts in wider perspectives of cooperation and assistance would place Manila at an advantage.

He added that it would also serve as a means of “building amity and mutual respect for purposes of settling any dispute, including what we have with China with regard to its claims vis-à-vis ours over the West Philippine Sea.”

“We hope that the Vice President will be more circumspect in issuing statements on the matter and rely more on her instinct as a lawyer and mother protective of those she is constitutionally tasked to shepherd,” Panelo said. (SunStar Philippines)


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