Duterte: United States 'afraid of China,' did 'nothing' after botched Panatag deal

Published May 11, 2021, 11:11 AM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The United States offered to mediate to resolve the 2012 Panatag Shoal standoff between the Philippines and China, but did “nothing” when the deal fell through, according to President Duterte.

President Rodrigo Duterte (File photo/Malacañang)

In a televised address Monday, May 10, the President argued that the United States was probably scared of China so it sought to ask the Philippine ships to withdraw from the contested shoal years ago to ease the tension. But when China did not leave the area as part of the supposed deal, Duterte questioned the alleged inaction of the United States.

The President was referring to the controversial pullout of two Philippine ships from Panatag Shoal to end a two-month standoff with Chinese vessels in 2012. At the time, the Aquino administration issued the pullout order, citing bad weather.

Authorities later claimed that the United States supposedly brokered talks and convinced the two nations to withdraw their vessels from Panatag Shoal to ease the tension. Manila complied with the ship withdrawal but Beijing stayed put and consequently took control of the shoal.

“Tayo ang umalis because ‘yong sabi ni (Foreign Affairs) Secretary (Teodoro) Locsin about the good offices, ang ibig sabihin nagmamagandang loob lang, offer to mediate na para hindi magkaupakan, that was what the America was there for (We left the area because, as Secretary Locsin said about the good offices meaning out of goodwill, they offered to media so there won’t be any attack. That was what the America was there for),” Duterte said.

“Ang akin ngayon is — my sentiment is bakit hindi nila in-enforce? (Why did they not enforce it?) He could have said, look, you allowed us to mediate. Then the result of that mediation must be followed, eh ipapasubo mo ako eh (you’ll push me against my will),” he said.

Duterte appeared to bear a grudge against the United States for not doing anything after the deal did not go as planned.

“But America did nothing, apparently, I don’t know, maybe afraid of China would turn its direction towards them so para tayo umalis talaga at hindi na tayo nakabalik (we left the area and we haven’t returned since),” he said.

The President previously blamed the past administration for the loss of the Panatag Shoal when it removed the local ships during the stalemate with China years ago. Duterte recently said former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario should be investigated and held accountable over the ship pullout. He threatened to execute the former administration official “by hanging.”

In his remarks Monday, the President admitted that the country would not have any problem if the country’s ships did not leave Panatag Shoal back then. He conceded that China was in “possession” of the area.

“Sino ang nagbigay ng possession sa China sa West Philippine Sea? Sila, kay kung hindi sila umalis, ‘di walang problema (Who gave possession of the West Philippine Sea to China? They did. If they did not leave the area, there is no problem),” he said.

The President has drawn criticisms over his supposed weak stance in asserting the country’s ownership of the West Philippine Sea amid the recent incursions of China into local waters. Duterte however tried to assure the nation that he would not forge any compromise on the country’s sovereignty and sovereign rights on the territory regardless of the coronavirus vaccines donated by China.

In a speech last month, the President admitted that the country should no longer count on the United States to help resolve the territorial conflict with China. He said the United States had a chance to come to the country’s aid in the past but did nothing, adding its longtime ally would not risk a nuclear war.

 
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