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Duterte: You cannot scare China

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President Rodrigo R. Duterte, delivers his speech during the Ceremonial Signing of the 2018 General Appropriations Act (GAA) and Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) in Malacañan Palace on Dec. 19. -- KARL NORMAN ALONZO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday, June 18, defended the People’s Republic of China amid criticisms arising from the South China Sea dispute.

“China is no pushover. You cannot scare them, and even the US has shown a little bit of apprehension,” Mr. Duterte said in his speech at the 120th founding anniversary celebration of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Pasay City on Monday afternoon.

He also said anew that the Philippines “will never go to a battle that it cannot win.”

“I am not prepared to sacrifice the lives of the Filipino people,” he said.

As for the confiscation of Filipino fishermen’s catch by the Chinese coast guard in the disputed waters surrounding the Panatag Shoal, the President said it was only a form of “barter.”

“It was barter…But the problem was the valuation. You do not have a way [to determine the value of goods]…Hindi tayo nagkakaintindihan dito (There is misunderstanding among us in this issue). It was not an outright seizure,” he explained.

For his part, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said: “We would like to assure the public that we are protecting every single square inch of our territory.”

He added: “President Duterte, even before he won, knows independent foreign policy; he understands geopolitics.”

Also during the event, Mr. Duterte conferred the following Presidential Awards to outstanding DFA officials— Gawad Mabini with the Rank of Kasugo or Member, Gawad Mabini with the Rank of Dakilang Kasugo or Commander, Gawad Mabini with the Rank of Dakilang Kamanong or Grand Cross, the Order of Sikatuna, and the Order of Lakandula— in recognition of their achievements during their service in the DFA, the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) said in a statement on its official Facebook page.

The DFA, according to the PCOO, was established on June 23, 1898 when President Emilio Aguinaldo appointed Apolinario Mabini as the Philippines’ first Secretary of Foreign Affairs (SFA).

“Since then, the DFA continues to further enhance and strengthen the Philippines’ interests and diplomatic ties in the global community,” the PCOO also said.