Duterte says PH owes debt of gratitude to China, but can’t compromise on WPS

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 29) — President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday that the country owes China a huge debt, including the supply of COVID-19 vaccines for the Philippines.

However, he also stressed that he cannot compromise on some matters, specifically those related to sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.

“China is a good friend. Mayroon tayong utang na loob na marami, pati iyon bakuna natin. (We are in debt, even with our vaccines.) So China, let it be known, is a good friend and we do not want trouble with them, especially war,” he said in his weekly address. “But, there are things which are not really subject to a compromise… I have the interest of my country also to protect.”

He said this after the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea reported that at least five Chinese Coast Guard ships have remained in the disputed waters, despite the Philippine government’s continued filing of diplomatic protests.

Duterte also said the country's vessels will remain in the West Philippine Sea and wait and see how the Chinese will act amid the Philippine's pleadings for a peaceful settlement of the matter.

RELATED: Chinese coast guard ships remain in West PH Sea, says task force

On Thursday's Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque clarified the Philippines is also indebted to nations that helped make the COVAX facility happen.

"Hindi naman natin sinasabi na wala rin tayong utang na loob doon sa mga bansa na nag-contribute sa COVAX facility," said Roque, adding Duterte himself thanked them when he personally welcomed the delivery of the country's first 515,000 doses from the World Health Organization-led initiative.

[Translation: We're not saying we don't owe countries that contributed to the COVAX facility a debt of gratitude.]

COVAX had allocated 44 million doses of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines for the Philippines. Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said 33 million of these are donations, while the country paid $100,000 (around ₱4.84 million) for the remaining 11 million.

Duterte hits Carpio, Del Rosario: Kung bright kayo, bakit nawala ang WPS?

The country’s top executive once again criticized ex-Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and ex-Foreign Affairs chief Albert Del Rosario, who were in office when the arbitral ruling was made in 2016 that invalidated China’s claims to the disputed waters. China has repeatedly refused to recognize the decision.

Isang tanong lang ako kay Carpio, pati kay Albert, kung bright kayo, bakit nawala ang West Philippine Sea sa atin? Panahon ninyo iyon eh,” he asked.

[Translation: I have one question for Carpio and Albert, if you are bright, why did we lose West Philippine Sea? That was during your time.]

Carpio earlier said that the country’s diplomatic protests over the presence of Chinese vessels in Philippine waters are being ignored due to verbal fishing agreement allegedly made by President Rodrigo Duterte with China. This was denied by the Presidential spokesman.

On the other hand, Del Rosario noted that standing up for the country's rights in the West Philippine Sea is not the same as an act of war against China. He added that China itseld will not wage a war against the Philippines due to its possible impact.