Senator Manny Pacquiao said the recent statements of President Duterte regarding the PH-China kerfuffle in the West Philippine Sea pale in comparison to what was said during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Sa akin, nakukulangan ako…dapat ipinagpatuloy n’ya ‘yun para magkaroon ng respeto sa atin ang China,” Pacquiao was quoted as saying.
What Sen. Pacquiao, the nation’s preeminent pugilist who had shot to worldwide fame with titles in eight divisions, had in mind was Duterte’s famous brag that he would jetski to the disputed territory and plant the Philippine flag if China refused to honor the decision of the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague junking its sweeping claims in the West Philippine Sea (some overlapping the PH’s exclusive economic zone).
Years later, Duterte executed an about-face and said he was merely joking.
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario chimed that jetski joke notwithstanding, it is the duty of the President under the Constitution “to protect what is ours.”
He called out Malacanang not to trade PH land and waters for vague promises of loans, etc. and instead enforce the 2016 arbitral award.
“On the comment made by the President that he will punch me when he sees me…we wish him well and may he uphold his sworn duty to the Filipino people,” he said.
Pacquiao said Duterte’s statements on the campaign trail, when he was still Davao City mayor, boosted no doubt the confidence of Filipinos who had become exasperated with the seeming helplessness of the Philippine government in enforcing the arbitral ruling against China, fired up their imagination and along with that his growing popularity.
“Yung ganung mga statement talagang kahit ako na-feel ko yung patriotism para sa bansa…na ipaglaban natin,” Pacquiao said.
But this doesn’t mean Duterte should be forced to live up to his braggadocio of riding a jetski to the WPS just to send China a strong message, he added.
Duterte had recently said that the PH should turn a blind eye to the incursions of literally hundreds of Chinese fishing boats and militia vessels inside the EEZ as the nation owes China a “debt of gratitude” for many favors, including donating Covid19 vaccines.
As this developed, Sen. Panfilo Lacson called for a review of diplomatic ties between the Philippines and China in the wake of China’s territory-grabbing activities in the WPS, particularly certain choice features inside the PH’s EEZ.
“What kind of friend – or benefactor – would take what is ours, bully us and ignore our protests?” according to Lacson who chairs the Senate’s national defense and security committee.
Lacson added that a review of the country’s diplomatic relations is timely as all the protests lodged against Beijing by the Department of Foreign Affairs regarding the continued encroachment of Chinese vessels in the EEZ have remained unheeded.
Pacquiao had previously written China, through Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian, to withdraw its ships from the WPS as their continued presence causes unnecessary tensions in the area, which could result in an untoward incident.
In pushing for the review of PH-China bilateral ties, Lacson said it is time for an innovative and creative approach as diplomatic protests aren’t making an impact on the Chinese.