By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
MALACAÑANG on Tuesday said President Rodrigo R. Duterte will raise issues concerning the West Philippine Sea, including the reported harassment of Filipino fishermen, with Chinese President Xi Jinping when he visits Beijing next month to attend the Belt and Road Forum.
“Hindi tayo papayag na itataboy ang mga mangingisda natin o iha-harass….Kahit na maliit na bansa tayo, ipagtatanggol natin ang mga kababayan natin doon,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a radio interview. (We won’t allow that our fishermen be harassed or driven away. Even if we are a small nation, we will defend our countrymen [in those seas]).
He said the President is scheduled to travel to Beijing in the “last week of April.”
“That issue can be raised there. Kailangang matuldukan iyan…. Dahil kung hindi kayo titigil eh siguro pag-aralan natin, magre-reconsider tayo sa mga ginagawa nating negosasyon sa ibang bagay pa. Hindi naman pupuwede iyong papayag tayo,” Mr. Panelo said. (That should be brought up. Because if we persist, perhaps we should study, reconsider what we have been doing in the negotiation on other matters. It cannot be that we’ll just give in).
“Most likely that will be raised as an issue if validated,” Mr. Panelo said of reports on Chinese harassment in the West Philippine Sea.
Last Monday, Mr. Panelo said the Philippine government “cannot do anything” about China’s presence in the West Philippine Sea.
“We can only protest like any other [claimant] country, like Vietnam and others….You want us to declare war against them?” he said.
“If there is a violation, then we will have to go back to them [and point out violations],” he also said.
Mr. Panelo also questioned the complaint against Chinese President Xi Jinping filed before the International Criminal Court by former foreign affairs secretary Albert F. del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
“Bakit noon hindi ka gumalaw?” the presidential spokesman said. (Why did you not act on it [when you were in office]?)”
“At that time you could have made protests, made noise,” he added.
As for Ms. Carpio-Morales, Mr. Panelo said: “I have no problems with her. She filed it out of righteous indignation.”