MANILA – Malacañang denied allegations that President Rodrigo Duterte became subservient to the interests of China instead of protecting the Philippines’ right over the contested South China Sea.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte is enforcing the Philippines’ landmark victory at The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration which invalidated Beijing’s expansive claims to the South China Sea.
“The President is not subservient to China. He is subservient to the interests of the Filipino people,” Panelo said. “The President is precisely enforcing that (constitutional) provision on protecting and serving the people.”
Panelo added the Philippines will continue to engage with China through diplomatic negotiations considering that there is no mechanism to enforce the 2016 arbitral ruling which China does not recognize.
“China is in possession. What do these critics want the President to do?” he said. “We can never win that war. What we’re saying is this President, just like a chess player, is anticipating what would come if he does this and that.”
“In other words, he’s trying to avoid armed hostilities between the two countries that could trigger bloody encounters, that could lead to war,” Panelo said.
The Philippines filed a case challenging China’s expansive claims to virtually the entire South China Sea in the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2013. The arbitral tribunal sided with the Philippines but China refused to recognize the proceedings and ignored the ruling.
Duterte repeatedly insisted that he would not provoke China into war over Manila’s claims in the South China Sea as this would only result in a massacre of government troops.