Palace insists sovereignty non-negotiable despite planned joint probe with China into Recto Bank incident
Malacanang reiterated on Monday that the Philippine sovereignty is non-negotiable.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the statement following criticisms from some quarters, including senators, questioning the government's decision to allow a joint investigation with China on the boat sinking incident at Recto Bank or Reed Bank, a Philippine-claimed territory in the disputed South China Sea.
"Sovereignty, as we have repeatedly declared, is non-negotiable. It cannot be bartered. Neither can it be surrendered nor diminished," he said in a statement.
"We shall assert and protect our sovereignty from any assault coming from any part of the world. Let no man or country forget that nor doubt it," he stressed.
While Panelo made such statement, he said earlier that President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to proposal to conduct an investigation with China over the June 9 ramming and sinking incident of Gem-Ver 1, a Philippine fishing vessel, allegedly by a Chinese trawler.
The Chinese trawler allegedly abandoned the 22 Filipino crew members after the incident.
Senators Panfilo Lacson, Franklin Drilon and Francis Pangilinan have expressed opposition on the joint inquiry, saying it would undermine the Philippine control over its claimed territories in the South China Sea.
China has been claiming almost the entire South China Sea, including those areas within the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
Specifically, Panelo said Lacson has an "amazing fertile imagination."
Lacson has said allowing a joint investigation with China and a third party "may be interpreted as a waiver of our right of ownership of Recto Bank."
Panelo said Duterte’s foreign policy is based on reason, not emotion.
"He is not swayed by the hysterics of nitpicking nationalists, who do not see anything good of what the President does. They have been rebuffed, time and time again by the overwhelming majority of Filipinos, in surveys after surveys, including two successive national elections," he said.
As the chief architect of foreign policy, he said Duterte strikes a balance between the interest of the nation and the country’s security, as against the threat of potential war with another.
Duterte maintains friendly and trade relation with other countries, even those with adversarial claims, he added.
"The President is cautious as he is pragmatic. He is a tactician as he is wise. He presses the right buttons, at the right time. He is neither reckless nor tentative, as his detractors and critics picture - or want - him to be," said Panelo, also chief presidential legal counsel.
"The Reed Bank issue is a navigation incident, and the President treats it as such. The protocol on this matter shall be observed in accordance with International law or domestic law, whichever is applicable," he said.
Panelo said the welfare of the Filipino fishermen is uppermost in Duterte's mind.
He added that Duterte is not waiting for the result of the final investigation, whether done separately or jointly by the two countries, before he gives succor to their plight.
All aid have been given them thus far to alleviate their present situation, he said. Celerina Monte/DMS