“The West Philippine Sea is ours.”
This was asserted by the country’s first Olympic gold medalist and newly-promoted Air Force Staff Sgt. Hidilyn Diaz when asked about her sentiments on the maritime dispute.
“To ordinary people who do not know much about the [nine-dash] line and on international disputes, this is what I want to tell them because this is what I know: the West Philippine Sea is ours,” Diaz told members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
And while she acknowledged that she is not in a position to interfere in the international dispute, Diaz said: “I still want to say that it is ours.”
Diaz defeated world champion Liao Quiyun on Monday to bag the country’s first-ever Olympic gold.
She said the Chinese team “was a little angry” with her Chinese coach, Gao Kaiwen, for not sharing her strength status.
“Of course Coach didn’t share that with China. Why would he share? He’s here to work for me and make me stronger,” she said. T
“There are mixed feelings, with the political, international issue [with] our sea. While there’s no war, I was able to represent the Philippines and beat China,” Diaz added.
Earlier, Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas head Monico Puentevella said one of the things he used to motivate Diaz was the WPS issue.
“This is ours. It is not China’s. I told Hidilyn, ‘You should defeat China.’” Puentevella said in a radio interview.
China has refused to acknowledge a 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated its massive nine-dash-line claim over the South China Sea.
The Philippines has filed one protest after the other over China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea.
Meanwhile, Diaz urged Filipinos to be wary of disinformation after she was wrongfully included in 2019 in a matrix of alleged plotters out to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.
“I just have to forgive everyone, but I hope we have all learned our lesson,” she said in a television interview Thursday.
“Let us not spread fake news. There is a plethora of information on social media and we have to be more discerning,” she added.
Diaz said false accusations that her father was a member of the New People’s Army made her cry.
“I cried when they made allegations about my father. How could people say that? But anyway, I just have to forgive them for my peace of mind and my family’s,” she said.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, for his part, said he was unsure if President Rodrigo Duterte was referring to the 2019 matrix when the commander-in-chief asked Diaz to “let bygones be bygones.”
“I’m not sure if he was referring to the matrix, but if Hidilyn was offended, whatever it is, the President said let bygones be bygones,” Roque said.
Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo has apologized to Diaz for hurting her feelings, but not for presenting the matrix to the media.