ONBOARD BRP DAVAO DEL SUR: Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to shield President Rodrigo Duterte from any attempt to remove him from office, the Chief Executive has revealed.
Duterte made the statement on Tuesday as he again touted the Philippines’ and China’s blooming ties under his leadership.
“The assurances of Xi Jinping were very encouraging. ‘We will not—,’ e nandiyan naman sila (anyway they’re there). ‘We will not allow you to be taken out of your office, and we will not allow the Philippines to go to the dogs,” Duterte said in his speech during the commemoration of the first year anniversary of the renaming of Benham Rise to Philippine Rise in the waters off Aurora Province.
“Siguro kasi freely elected leader naman ako (Anyway, it is probably because I’m a freely elected leader), it could be a very justified statement,” he added.
Duterte and Xi met last month at the Boao Forum for Asia in the southern province of Hainan, where they affirmed the relationship between the Philippines and China amid a maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Since Duterte assumed office, he has maintained a non-confrontational approach in dealing with the sea dispute.
He had said many times that the Philippines could not afford to declare war against China because of lack of defense capability, and that he was holding on to the words of Xi that no more developments would be done in the disputed areas.
Also in a speech on Tuesday, Duterte reiterated that the Philippines had not given up its sovereignty rights over certain areas in the disputed South China Sea.
“Well we just restored our relationship. I think it’s a new era for us and if I may beg you not to bring this up forcefully because there will be a time when we’ll be discussing it.’” Duterte said.
The President said Xi had given his word that the South China Sea row would be solved in a non-confrontational manner.
“We would always find a solution to any problem,” Duterte quoted Xi as saying.
“We are not giving up our rights. We are still insisting until now to the point they are now willing, Xi Jinping said…
They are now offering a joint exploration and development,” he added.
Duterte revealed Xi’s “very encouraging remarks” even as he detests other countries for meddling in Philippine affairs.
The President said he believed China would be more willing to come to the Philippines’ rescue compared with the United States, a long-standing ally.
“Naisip ko, wala naman tayong magagawa dito sa China (I just thought, since we can’t do anything about China), might as well make friends with them,” he said. “And the nearest na makatulong kung mag-upakan, patayan (one who could help us in case of a conflict), will be China. And China said, ‘We will be there.’”
Duterte also said the Americans, after all, had “lost (their) will to fight” and the US was “deteriorating.”
“I’m sad to say but America cannot stand hardship. Punta sa giyera sa Afghanistan, matapos ang bakbakan uwi sa Green Zone, gusto ng kuwarto na air-con (They will go to war in Afghanistan, then after the fight they will go back to the Green Zone and look for air-conditioned rooms),” he claimed.
The US military has been in Afghanistan since 2001 and has forces deployed across the world, including in Iraq, Syria and South Korea.
The Philippines and its former colonizer, the United States, have been allies since the two countries signed the Mutual Defense Treaty in 1951.
Despite Duterte’s hostility against Washington, Filipino and American troops are conducting the annual Balikatan exercises in the country. The joint military exercises started last May 7 and will end on May 18.
This year’s exercises focus on counterterrorism and mutual defense.
Filipinos, not Xi
Opposition senators reacted swiftly to Duterte’s statements, saying the President should get the support of the Filipino people instead of relying on a foreign government.
“Ang pahayag bang ito ang kapalit ng pananahimik ng administrasyon sa West Philippine Sea? (Is this what the administration got in exchange for its inaction in the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea)? Whose interest is being pursued by depending on China? Is it the nation’s interest or the interest of those in power that is being pushed here?” said Pangilinan, who is also the president of the Liberal Party.
Pangilinan said the Duterte administration should learn from the lessons of history, particularly during the time of former president Ferdinand Marcos who was ousted in 1986 despite the powerful backing of the US.
Marcos, he said, was abandoned by US as calls of his ouster grew because of his failure to address widespread poverty and abuses in government while enriching himself and his family.
“Like the US in 1986, China will abandon him as President if he loses the support of our citizens,” the opposition senator pointed out.
Pangilinan said the government should simply address poverty and joblessness and ensure that abuses, corruption, and disregard of the laws are addressed.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th for his part expressed doubt on the accuracy of Duterte’s statements, saying China would not issue such assurance as it was aware it does not have the power to stop any leadership change from happening.
“Duterte’s statement betrays his paranoia about the state of affairs in his own country. No one is trying to kick him out; he is doing the destabilizing all by himself,” said Trillanes, a staunch critic of the President.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the country should protect its democracy without help from other countries.
Even some members of the Senate majority bloc viewed the supposed statement of Chinese President Xi Jinping negatively.
“We are a sovereign country and we are the only ones who can decide on what to do with our leders,” Lacson said in a separate interview.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said that if China was really committed to protecting the Philippines then it should be made official though the signing of treaties.
“If China gives its commitment then China can protect us because China is a stronger military power than the Philippines,” he said.
WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA / BY CATHERINE S. VALENTE, TMT ON
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