MANILA – Malacañang on Thursday dismissed as a mere banter the latest pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte that the Philippines could either be a territory of the United States (US) or a province of China.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo justified Duterte’s remarks saying the latter merely floated the possibility, in case the Philippines fails to fight its own battles.
“That was a general statement. Kumbaga kantyaw yun sa sarili nating bansa. Kung hindi natin kaya, ‘wag na tayong magkaroon ng gobyerno. ‘Yun ang ibig niyang sabihin (It’s like banter to our own country that if we can’t do it, let’s not have our own government. That’s what he means),” Panelo said.
On Wednesday, Duterte said the Philippines could choose between becoming a US territory or China’s province, if it could not become self-reliant.
Duterte issued the statement, as he recounted asking the Armed Forces of the Philippines whether the Philippines could survive without the US following the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
“We can be a territory of the Americans or we can be a province of China kung hindi natin kaya (if we can’t stand on our feet),” Duterte said.
Panelo said Duterte’s latest remarks should be taken lightly because he would not allow the Philippines to be dependent on other countries like the US and China.
“Ano lang ‘yun, sinasabi niya na kung hindi nating kaya maging gobyerno, ‘di magpa-colonize na lang tayo. Yun ang ibig niyang sabihin (What he’s saying is if we can’t stand on our own, it’s better for us to be colonized. That’s what he meant),” he said.
Duterte earlier ordered the termination of VFA, a 1998 military pact between Manila and Washington DC, as he believed that it only benefits the US and puts the Philippines at a disadvantage.
The VFA is deemed revoked 180 days after the US government on February 11 received the formal notice of termination from the Philippines.
Since he assumed office in 2016, Duterte has kept a distance from the US, the Philippines’ long-time ally.
Duterte has instead sought mended ties with China, despite Manila’s longstanding disputes with Beijing over the South China Sea. (iamigo/sovereignph.com/PNA)