MANILA—Malacañang on Friday said President Rodrigo Duterte continues to assert the Philippines’ rights over the West Philippine Sea although in his own diplomatic way.
In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella stressed the President has always maintained that “he is not giving up our claims in the EEZ (exclusive economic zone] according to UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).”
The Palace official made the assurance in the wake of a Pulse Asia survey which showed that 84 percent of Filipinos think the government should uphold its rights in the disputed region as stipulated in the July 12, 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) that ruled in favor of the Philippines.
The survey was conducted from Dec. 6 to 11, 2016, two months after Duterte’s state visit to China.
“What the President is doing is asserting it but in a different diplomatic style,” Abella said.
Citing a statement made by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on the matter, the Palace official said that as it happened, the Chinese government has already reclaimed three of the islands in the disputed area and also have a presence in Scarborough when the PCA ruling was announced.
“The [Defense] Secretary has stated in the dialect, ‘Wag na nila tayong gawing proxy.’ It is because, if you remember, when the ruling was promulgated in July 12, we got a lot of bragging from countries around that we should forcefully assert the ruling in favor of the Philippines,” he said.
“But our government shows instead a soft landing. The President chose to have a bilateral talk with the Chinese government, which gave as some advantage,” Abella said.
In October 2016, Duterte went to Beijing and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and business leaders.
The President’s four-day state visit yielded USD15 billion in investments and another USD9 billion in credit facilities.
“In other words, what the President is doing is he’s asserting it. But in a different diplomatic style,” Abella said.