Vice President Leni Robredo said President Rodrigo Duterte should bring up the issue of threats to Philippine sovereignty with Chinese President Xi Jinping as he attends the Belt and Road Initiative forum in Beijing.
Robredo, talking to the local media in Palawan, said she is vocal on her stand on the need to protect the territory and sovereignty of the country over the issues of threats in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
“Kasi lalong pinapabayaan natin , lalong lumalala ang problema. In the recent past, nagkaroon ng konting pivot sa statements ng pamahalaan, sana tuloy-tuloy yon. Ngayon nasa China ‘yong pangulo, sana i-raise ‘yong issue ng threats ng territory and sovereignty,” Robredo said.
In a statement from Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Thursday afternoon, he said Duterte and Xi have agreed that the issue on the West Philippine Sea should be managed through bilateral negotiations.
Panelo said Duterte raised the issue of the WPS, particularly the situation on Pag-asa Island, during his bilateral meeting with Xi.
“Both agree that the situation can be managed by the mechanism of bilateral negotiations but it should not affect the cooperation being undertaken by both the Philippines and China and they look forward to a productive discussion on matters of mutual concern and interests,” Panelo said.
Panelo said Xi spoke of the importance of good neighborliness and proper handling of differences between the countries.
“While the Chinese leader acknowledged the inevitable of having challenges to the bilateral relations, he placed importance on the mutual trust that exists between the two nations in order to resolve the same,” he said.
Panelo said Xi cited the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on oil and gas as an example when both Manila and Beijing suspended their differences for a joint exploration that would mutually benefit the people.
He added that Duterte articulated to Xi his position that the Philippines remains China’s ally in Southeast Asia.
Duterte said, “both countries are allies, and allies strengthen—and do not destroy – each other”, according to Panelo.
The President is with other world leaders and heads of international organizations in the forum “to discuss, among others, how to boost connectivity, further strengthen policy synergy and build closer partnerships, and promote green and sustainable development.”
Robredo said the livelihood of many Filipinos is at stake in the face of threats in the Philippine territory.
“Sana hindi natin pababayaan kasi hindi naman ito basta-basta. Una, ‘yong resources at stake, pangalawa ‘yong hanapbuhay ng mga tao, threatened, at pangatlo ‘yong seguridad ng buong bansa. Sana seryosohin ng pamahalaan ang kanilang pangako na ipapakipaglaban yon,” she said.
Robredo said the International Arbitration Tribunal has already ruled in favor of the Philippines.
“Kasi ang problema na ito ay problema na rin even before kaya nga tayo naghain ng kaso pero dati kasi wala pa tayong pinanghahawakan. Pero ngayon na may pinanghahawakan na tayo dapat sana mas matapang na tayong ipaglaban ang ating karapatan,” she pointed out.