PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has announced that he is no longer pushing through with his plan to visit Pag-asa Island in Kalayaan municipality situated within the contested South China Sea.
Duterte’s statement came after he earlier instructed the military to claim islands in the contested waters that are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf through a military construction and raising of the Philippine flag.
Speaking before the Filipino community in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, the Chief Executive said he is withdrawing his plan, following request of Chinese government not to proceed because it will only cause “trouble.”
The President said China had sent a word to him, saying “please do not do that.”
“China said: ‘what will happen if every head of state will go there to claim?’ They said, if every head of state of the contending parties there around the West Philippine Sea, they call it the South China Sea, will go there to plant their flags. There’ll be likely trouble,” Duterte said.
“So because of our friendship with China and because we value your friendship, we will not, I will not go there [in Pagasa Island] to raise the Philippine flag,” he added.
Duterte said he might just send his son to visit Pagasa Island on Independence day. He, however, failed to mention whom among his son, Paolo and Sebastian, will represent him.
The President’s pronouncement is not the first of his changeable tack in foreign relations diplomacy. Duterte earlier castigated the United States particularly then US President Barack Obama for criticizing his deadly war on drugs and extrajudicial killings.
He has now softened after the election of new US President Donald Trump when the latter reportedly congratulated him for his success in the war on drugs and has aske for US support in fighting terrorism.
“So out of respect – and this will be relayed, I know they are listening – because of your goodwill and friendship shown to us, I will not go to any of the islands,” Duterte said.
“So now, we are good and I would like to preserve that goodwill between the Philippines and China. It has benefitted us in so many ways that life is almost beautiful. All time, we are improving, economy is moving,” he added. (SunStar Philippines)
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