President Duterte’s critics are pushing for an “aggressive, isolationist” policy against China that would be “dangerous” for the Philippines, Malacañang said on Thursday.
The Palace took a swipe at Duterte’s detractors, defending him for calling Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio “stupid” for invoking the Constitution in his allowing the Chinese to fish in Philippine waters.
“What the President is saying, and which I’ve been saying too, is that critics want to pursue an aggressive, isolationist policy that is very dangerous in these times,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
Panelo was asked to comment on Duterte’s vituperation of Carpio, who declined to talk about the matter on Thursday.
Panelo did not directly refer to Duterte’s words but said the critics were forcing the President to take provocative steps that might aggravate the territorial dispute in the South China Sea between China and the Philippines.
“He doesn’t like being forced to take steps that would endanger the Filipinos. He is being forced, isn’t he? He said, ‘They are looking for trouble. They really want to push me there.’ That’s the President’s point, hence his reaction,” Panelo said.
Carpio has been keenly pushing for the Philippines to assert sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea, the waters within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
He has argued that allowing Chinese fishermen access to Philippine waters is unconstitutional, citing the provision in the Constitution that mandates the state to “protect the nation’s marine wealth in its exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”
Duterte said on Monday that fishing by the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea was fine with him because China and the Philippines were “friends,” drawing disapproval even from his allies in the Senate, who also cited the exclusivity clause.