WPS issue a matter of 'national pride' despite China’s vaccine donation — Duterte

Published April 29, 2021, 10:18 AM

by Raymund Antonio

The territorial issue on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) is about national pride despite China’s donation of coronavirus vaccines to the Philippines, President Duterte said Wednesday night.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers a televised address on April 28, 2021 (Malacañang photo)

The Chief Executive stressed that despite being indebted to China because they donated COVID-19 vaccines to the country, the Philippine sovereignty comes first.

“Medyo emosyonal ako kaunti pero alam mo na, (I’m a little emotional but you know,) it’s a national— national pride,” he said in his televised public address Wednesday, April 28.

“Unang-una, kalaki ng utang na loob natin sa China. Tingnan niyo bakuna libre (First of all, we are indebted to China. Look at the vaccines, it’s free). There are so many things — ‘yong mga tulong nila. Pero sabihin ko na (— their help. But I will say that) there are some things in life which cannot be bargainable and this is one of them,” Duterte added, referring to the West Philippine Sea dispute.

“Now, tingnan natin kung anong gawin ng China (let us see what China will do) despite of our pleadings for peace and to settle it. Anong gawain nila doon sa mga barko natin nandiyan o ‘yong ginawa ni Albert pati ni Carpio, ngayon makita na natin (What they will do to our ships there, what did Albert and Carpio did, now we will see),” the President said.

Duterte was referring to former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, both outspoken critics of the President’s defeatist stance against China’s incursion in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Carpio and Del Rosario led the filing of the arbitral tribunal case at The Hague in The Netherlands against China’s building of artificial islands and economic activities in the Scarborough Shoal. The tribunal awarded the case to the Philippines in 2016, shortly after Duterte came to power.

But the President has maintained that the Philippines cannot go to war against China despite a campaign promise to ride a jet ski to the disputed territories and lay the Philippines’ stake there.

Critics of the President pointed to him being mum about the presence of hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef), which is merely 170 nautical miles west of Palawan province.

At one point, in March, there were over 200 Chinese vessels there that Beijing said were merely seeking shelter from the bad weather. The Chinese government also donated some one million Sinovac vaccines during that time.

China claims the entire WPS based on its ancient nine-dash-line map. Aside from the Philippines, it is also being claimed in part by Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Brunei.