Palace: Up to Duterte to raise warships issue with Xi

Published August 17, 2019, 4:29 PM

by CJ Juntereal

By Argyll Geducos

Malacañang said it is also important if President Duterte would talk to Chinese President Xi Jinping about the nine Chinese warships which reportedly passed through Sibutu Strait.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo

Panelo made the statement following reports that Chinese warships have been passing through Philippine waters supposedly without permission from the government or without even informing Manila.

In an interview, Panelo said that it will be up to President Duterte if he would discuss the issue with Xi during their upcoming bilateral meeting in China.

“That’s the call of the president whether he wants to raise that with President Xi, but I suppose taking that up would also be important,” he said.

“The incident has been repeatedly done and therefore has become an irritant. We have to know exactly why they are passing through the strait when the shortest route going back to China can be done through a different route,” he added.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) filed a diplomatic protest against China after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that Chinese warships and survey ships have been passing through Philippine waters without permission.

However, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua said that China will never do that to the Philippines because the two countries are friends.

Malacañang, on the other hand, expressed concern over the issue.

“We express concern with that kind of incident. Because if they keep on saying that we’re friends, I don’t think this is an act of friendship,” Panelo said.

The Palace official said this week that the Palace will “call the attention” of China regarding the issue.

“We will call their attention. The Chinese Ambassador has invited me for dinner in one of these days. Maybe I will raise that to him,” Panelo said Thursday.

“I will ask him kung ano na nangyari doon sa—kasi (what really happened there because) I remember Secretary Delfin was quoting him, ‘di ba na (that), ‘That’s wrong, we’re friends.’ ‘Di tanungin ko ano bang nangyari doon, alam ba ninyo ito (I will ask him if they know about this)?” he added.

President Duterte is set to go to China late this month to raise the Arbitral Ruling which states that the Philippines has rights to the disputed West Philippine Sea. Zhao, however, said that even if Duterte raises it during his meeting with Xi, China will never recognize the said ruling.

Despite this, Panelo said nothing can stop Duterte from saying whatever he wants.

“The President said, ‘Nobody can control my words to our people. This is my duty as president.’ So when he addresses the Filipino people, nobody can stop him kung anong sasabihin niya (from saying what he wants to say),” Panelo said Thursday.

“He will not alter his position on the matter in the same way that the Chinese government as it says will not—” he added.