Duterte ‘not belittling’ Constitution with South China Sea remarks: Palace


MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte was not belittling the Philippine charter when he described as “thoughtless and senseless” a constitutional provision stating that the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the country must be protected by the state, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte, in likening the Philippine constitution to a piece of toilet paper, was only emphasizing that China would not respect local laws with respect to its sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

“No, that’s not belittling, you’re putting a meaning to something that is not implied. The implication there is the Chinese government will never respect our Constitution with respect to their claim of sovereignty over their island or waters,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing Tuesday.

Duterte last week said he did not need to tell China what to do, because Beijing believes it owns the entire South China Sea.

“Sabihin ko, ‘Get out because this is the Constitution.’ Sabihin sa’yo [ng China], ‘Naubusan ka na ng toilet paper? Gamitin mo ’yan,'” the President said.

(I’ll tell China ‘get out because this is the Constitution.’ China will just tell me ‘You ran out of toilet paper? Use that.’)

Constitutional provision on EEZ for the ‘thoughtless, senseless,’ says Duterte
China has conflicting claims with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan in the South China Sea, which is rich in marine resources. It is also believed to have vast natural gas and oil reserves.

In 2016, the Philippines won a case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which invalidated China’s 9-dash line claim over most of the South China Sea. The ruling, which Beijing refuses to recognize, was handed down at the start of President Duterte’s term.

Duterte, who reset Manila’s relationship with Beijing, refused to flaunt the Philippines’ arbitral victory in exchange for increased trade and investments..

Panelo said President Duterte only had the “the well-being and security of the Filipino people in mind and in his heart” in refusing to flaunt Manila’s legal victory.

“We reiterate that we remain steadfast in maintaining our claims with respect to our territory and exclusive economic zones. This is based on the constitutional command of the Constitution on the President to serve and to protect the Filipino people. In doing so, we shall maintain amity and friendly relations with all nations as directed by as well,” he said.