Duterte to protect Filipinos’ rights; diplomatic protest won’t affect vaccine procurement efforts

Published January 28, 2021, 3:09 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang assured the public that the government will protect the rights and interests of Filipinos following the passage of a new Chinese law that allows its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) lodged a diplomatic protest against China over the said legislation.

In his Thursday presser, Roque said President Duterte knows what to do in this kind of situation.

“Ang Presidente po ay naninindigan na siya ay presidente ng Pilipino, puprotektahan niya ang mga Pilipino (The President is firm that he is a president of the Filipinos. He will protect Filipinos),” he said.

“Our independent foreign policy is intended to be friends with everyone and enemies with no one but we will protect and secure the Philippine national interest,” he added.

Roque said the filing of a diplomatic protest is consistent with Malacañang’s stand that China has to follow the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“This is consistent with our position that while states can enact laws as part of their sovereignty, they must do so in compliance with the UN Charter prohibiting the use of force unless by way of self-defense or when authorized by the Security Council,” he explained.

“[The] UN Convention on the Law of the Seas prohibits even the arrest of illegal fishermen. Kinakailangang i-release upon posting of bond, eh bakit mo babarilin (They would have to be released after a bond is posted so why would you shoot them)? So there is also an issue about a breach of the UNCLOS),” he added.

Despite this, Roque said the Philippines will follow the rule of law.

“The Philippines is fully committed to the rule of law and will assert all its rights available under existing principles of international law to defend its interests,” he said.

Vaccine procurement

Meanwhile, Roque said the Philippines’ diplomatic protest against China will not affect the former’s efforts to procure COVID-19 vaccines from the Asian giant.

“Ibang usapin naman ang bakuna (The vaccine is another issue),” he said.

“Ang bakuna po (The vaccine) is actually a humanitarian act of the entire planet Earth in response to a humanitarian disaster,” he added.

The Philippines has procured 25 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine. The first batch of vaccines is expected to arrive in the Philippines next month.