Palace refuses to comment on natural resources becoming collateral to China's aid to Philippines
Malacanang refused on Wednesday to comment on a statement by a Chinese professor who said the use of certain natural resources by China in the Philippine-claimed areas in South China Sea serves as a collateral for Manila's loans from Beijing.
In a press briefing in Palawan, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the reported statement did not come from the Chinese government.
"It was disclosed by an academic...I won't use a Chinese newspaper as a primary source to establish a fact," he said.
He said before he comments on such issue, he would look first for an official agreement.
"Since there is no such deal, that's gossip. The presidential spokesperson does not comment based on gossip. I don't know if it's fake news, gossip, because I cannot comment on alleged newspaper report because I myself did not see that newspaper report," Roque explained.
Global Times, a Chinese publication, reported Chinese and Philippines' projects were to start in South China Sea.
It quoted Zhuang Guotu, head of Xiamen University's Southeast Asian Studies Center, that paying back the Philippines' debts to China was not a problem.
"The interest rate on the loans China has provided to the Southeast Asian country is very low. And the Philippines has strong debt-paying ability. Besides, the loans are usually accompanied by repayment agreements, which use certain natural resources as collateral," Global Times quoting Zhuang.
Roque reiterated President Rodrigo Rodrigo's stance over the West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea and all the islands that the country is occupying and laying claim to as part of Palawan, with the exception of Scarborough off Zambales province.
"The president has said that he will not surrender any inch, even a single inch of Philippine territory to any foreigner," he said.
Roque said Duterte has the opinion that the ruling of the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal favoring the Philippines was an "authoritative evidence of the customary norm of international law applicable and is certainly authority that China cannot make claims on the basis of historic waters."
However, the Duterte administration has decided to take a soft stance with China and place at the back burner the 2016 arbitral ruling, invalidating Chinese historic and sovereign claim through the nine-dash line over the South China Sea.
While Roque reiterated the government would not surrender its territory, "the policy is on matters which are not controversial such as trade and investments, we will proceed full speed ahead."
"We appeal to the critics, we have to be united on this issue. Please do not claim to have a monopoly of upholding the national interest. Philippine President Duterte has been consistent that he will die for Philippine territory, but meanwhile he will not sacrifice even a single life for an issue that can be resolved on the basis of friendly relations," he added. Celerina Monte/DMS