President Duterte said that China can shower the Philippines with coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines all it wants but he will never surrender the country’s claim to the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte made the statement following criticisms of his remarks that the Philippines owes China for its donation of COVID-19 vaccines.
In his pre-recorded public address on Monday evening, President Duterte reiterated that there was nothing wrong with him thanking China.
“It’s never wrong to admit a debt of gratitude but it would be wrong to use it as an excuse to maybe–sabi ko (I said) there will be no compromise. Alam ng China ‘yan (China knows that),” he said.
Duterte said he will not set aside the country’s claim in the West Philippine Sea just because the Philippines accepted COVID-19 vaccines from China.
“it does not mean na tanggapin natin ang bakuna tapos sabihin ko kalimutan natin ang claim sa West Philippine Sea (that we accepted their vaccines so we should forget about our claim in the West Philippine Sea). It was never like that. The world does not operate like that,” he said.
“Miski bahaan tayo ng vaccine. Gagamitin ko pa rin pero sabihin ko hindi ito ang kabayaran [sa West Philippine Sea] (Even if they flood us with vaccines. I will use them but I tell you, that is not payment for the West Philippine Sea),” he added.
President Duterte recalled that he called Chinese President Xi Jinping when the Philippines was having difficulty finding sources of COVID-19 vaccines.
The President said Xi never told him that the vaccines were in exchange for the Philippines’ claim in the disputed waters.
“Hindi naman sinabi [ni President Xi] na kalimutan mo ang Scarborough Shoal, bigyan kita (President Xi never said that we should forget about the Scarborough Shoal for them to give us vaccines),” Duterte said.
The Philippines’ first batch of COVID-19 vaccines were 600,000 doses of Sinovac’s Coronavac donated by the Chinese government. The shipment arrived in the country on February 28, enabling the start of the country’s vaccination program to start on March 1.