By Lilian C. Mellejor
President Rodrigo R. Duterte doused cold water on critics speculating a sell-out of Philippines sovereignty during his state visit in Beijing, China where he is expected to discuss issues on the West Philippine Sea with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang this week.
“We do not bargain anything though. We continue to insist that it’s ours and that the Tribunal, the international decision will be taken up, but there will be no hard impositions,” President Duterte told reports in a press briefing at the Davao International Airport in Davao City shortly before his departure Sunday afternoon, October 16, for his Brunei Darussalam visit.
He also agreed with Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, who said the President can be impeached if he bargains with Philippines sovereignty.
“In all my dealings, I will remain true to the Constitutional mandate reposed on me to pursue an independent foreign policy and to uphold the national interests of the Philippines,” he said.
The President remains strongly committed to stick to the country’s claim on the West Philippine Sea, dismissing speculations on how he would deal with China on matters of the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.
“We will talk and we will, maybe paraphrased everything in the judgment and set the limits of our territories, the special economic zones. It will be no bargaining there. It is ours …,” he said.
President Duterte further emphasized that there is no bargaining of the Philippines territories, whether within the turf or to the 200-mile economic zone.
“It will remain a special concern and I will be very careful not to bargain anything for, after all, I cannot give what is not mine and which I am not empowered to do by any sketch of imagination,” he added.
He stressed that “there will be no hard impositions because it is a matter of international committee when you go there.”
“We only want to talk. And remember, there are only two options: we go to trouble or we talk. We can choose to pass there in between,” he said.
President Duterte’s visit to China is the first State Visit of a Philippine President since 2011. “This signals a key turning point in both our histories,” he said.
When in China, the President looks forward to renewing the ties of friendship between the two countries and to reaffirm the commitment to work closer to achieve shared goals for the two countries and peoples.
“As we mark this year the 41st anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Philippines, we will look at the sum total of our relationships. We shall seek ways to strengthen cooperation, particularly to intensify two-way trade and investments,” he said in his departure speech.
He said he looks forward to exchanging views with the leaders of China on how to further improve bilateral relations and identify emerging areas of partnership and various fields of cooperation.
The President reiterated his intention to also continue to espouse cooperation and collaboration with friendly nations on the basis of sovereign equality, non-interference and mutual respect. (PNA)