Sen. Manny Pacquiao urged President Duterte on Monday, May 3, not to “buckle” in the face of China’s repeated intrusions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) as his allegedly defeatist remarks could weaken the country to defend the Philippines’ sovereign rights.
Pacquiao recalled that during his electoral campaign in 2016, Duterte vowed to ride a jet ski and plant the Philippine flag in the WPS to confront China’s intrusions that made him as well as many Filipinos voted for him.
“Nakakapanghina kasi iba sa simula. Narinig natin bago mag-eleksyon, sa kampanya, nung sinabi niya na mag-jet ski siya dala ang bansang Pilipinas. Sa puso ko noon, sabi ko, ito na iboboto ko,” Sen. Manny Pacquiao said on Monday, May 3.
“Sa akin, nakukulangan ako, nakukulangan ako kumpara doon sa bago pa siya tumakbo, nage-eleksyon pa lang. Dapat ipatuloy niya yun para magkaroon din naman tayo ng respeto [galing sa China],” Pacquiao told reporters in an online interview.
The senator also said “millions of Filipinos starting from our ancestors” have fought, made sacrifices and died for the country’s freedom and territorial integrity, something Malacañang must always remember.
Meanwhile, President Duterte claimed on Monday, May 3, that he “never” mentioned that he would “retake” the West Philippine Sea (WPS) during the campaign period.
“I never, never in my campaign as president promised the people that I would retake the West Philippine Sea. I did not promise that I would pressure China,” Duterte said.
Duterte, also said last week, that the country holds a "debt of gratitude" for Chinese aid, which includes the 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for the country's virus response.
But Pacquiao pointed out that while he agreed with him on this, the aids should not hinder the country from fighting for its rights in its own territory.
“Yes, may utang na loob tayo sa China, 'di natin nakakalimutan yun, pero hindi ibig-sabihin na aapapkaan na ang karapatan natin. Ang hinihiling natin ay igalang ang karapatan natin," he noted.
He added that he wrote a letter to Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian on April 10 regarding the presence of Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea.
“We reiterate our call to your government to promptly withdraw these vessels from our territory. We demand nothing less than for your country to respect our sovereignty,” his letter read.
What the senator received in return was a text message.
“The Ambassador of China replied informally. Yung reply niya, ‘We received the letter from Hon. Pacquiao dated April 10. Ambassador is hoping that any differences will not affect our exchanges and cooperation.’ Yun ang sabi niya,” according to Pacquiao.