‘Studied’ back-talk

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo. (Facebook image)

The Palace said a “studied response” will be maintained by the government in addressing the developments in the West Philippine Sea in consideration of the huge assistance China rendered to the country, particularly during the five-month Marawi City siege of Islamic State (IS)-influenced militants in 2017.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said that when the government was in great need of firearms at the height of the campaign against the terror elements who occupied the city in Mindanao, it was China which stepped forward for the country.

“When we needed the weapons from America, they withdrew the sale due to the condition they imposed. The President said don’t use it. So, when he went to China, he was given an offer and we accepted and so did Russia. So, both nations provided huge assistance which we appreciate,” Panelo said.

He added that China has been instrumental in achieving the goal of President Rodrigo Duterte to stamp out drug trafficking and addiction by setting up a huge rehabilitation center in Agusan del Sur.

Despite the sea row, China gave the Philippines P370 million worth of arms and ammunition during the Marawi siege and funded a 150-bed rehabilitation center in Agusan del Sur.

Friend’s help

China has provided the government a lot of help and we are only returning the courtesy, he said.

“So, what I am saying is we need a studied response. We do not need to be reckless in reacting to every complaint,” he said.

“The government’s action is being appreciated as Ambassador Zhao Jianhua stated ‘I appreciate that you responded that we will validate,’” Panelo said.

“So, when we validated, we told them ‘You can’t do that,’” Panelo added.

China gave the Philippines P370 million worth of arms and ammunition during the Marawi siege and funded a 150-bed rehabilitation center in Agusan del Sur.

The Chinese government is also expected to explain the presence of Chinese vessels suspected to be maritime militia during the 2nd Belt and Road Forum for international cooperation to be held on 25 April 25 in Beijing, the Palace official added.

He said he had no knowledge whether the President would raise the issue during his attendance there, but Chinese officials might tackle it themselves.

Response expected

“My educated guess is since we have already raised that, they may respond to that during the bilateral talk,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

“They will have to respond to our protest — a salvo of protest,” he added.

Chinese President Xi Jinping invited Duterte to attend the Belt and Road Forum during his official state visit to the Philippines in November 2018.

Panelo maintained that Duterte’s decision to shelve the arbitration decision of the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to prioritize friendly bilateral ties with China is effective.

“I think so, because we opened ourselves to friendship with them. We used to have a bad relationship with them, right?” he said.

He stressed part of the country’s effort to reciprocate China’s assistance is to be “diplomatically kind,” but at the same time, asserting the country’s sovereignty.

“By being diplomatically kind to them with respect to whatever action they’re doing at the same time, asserting our sovereignty and our determination not for any foreign country to intrude into our sovereignty,” Panelo said.

“We are kind in the sense that we are courteous to them, but with respect to sovereignty issue, that’s a different story. We have to assert our sovereignty,” he explained.