The Palace on Thursday did not rule out that President Rodrigo Duterte would raise the presence of Chinese ships around Pag-asa Island when he visits China for the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation from April 24 to 27.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said this might be brought up when the President meets with President Xi Jinping at a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the forum.
“My educated guess is since we have already raised that, they [China] may respond to that during the bilateral talk. They will have to respond to our protest,” Panelo said.
He said such a meeting would be “a proper venue” for a discussion of issues of mutual concern regarding security and trade relations.
A note verbale sent to Beijing protesting the presence of the Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea around Pag-asa Island has drawn no response so far.
The Palace earlier said China “has no business” in the waters near Philippine-held Pag-asa Island.
Philippine sovereignty is “non-negotiable,” Malacañang said on Thursday as the country upheld its diplomatic protest against China.
Panelo said the government will continue to assert the country’s sovereignty while being “kind” to Beijing in terms of diplomatic relations.
“They should tell us exactly why they are there and what are they doing there in the first place... We are not kind to them now, we are demanding them to leave the place,” Panelo told Palace reporters.
“In other words, we are kind in the sense that we are courteous to them but with respect to sovereignty issue, that’s a different issue. We have to assert our sovereignty
,” he added.
Asked whether the Philippines would be open to compromise with China over the presence of Beijing’s vessels in the Philippine-claimed territories, Panelo said: “It’s non-negotiable.”
In a Palace press briefing earlier, Panelo said China has helped the Philippines in terms of procuring armaments and rebuilding Marawi City.
“You must remember that China is one of the countries that helped us win Marawi... They have been giving us assistance. As for us, we are only returning the courtesy,” Panelo said.
According to the Palace official, in order to pay the country’s kindness forward, China should go away the Philippine-claimed areas in the disputed waters.
“We’re supposed to be friends. And as to the President, he says ‘Friends don’t do that.’ If we are friends, we should be friendly in terms of our actions,” Panelo said.
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