Let Duterte’s ‘China gambit’ play out, says solon
MANILA, Philippines — Let President Rodrigo Duterte’s “China gambit” play out, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said less than a week before the chief executive was set to deliver his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Speaking in a weekly press forum on Wednesday, Salceda admitted that he himself was not “happy” with China’s incursions but said the President might have “China gambit.”
“Let’s give the President an opportunity to let his China gambit to play out, hopefully to positive consequences, positive outcomes,” Salceda, speaking in Filipino, added.
Earlier, the President said he was planning to use his SONA as a platform to “educate” those who believed that his fishing agreement with China was unconstitutional.
Critics had then given him a sharp rebuke for saying that Chinese fishermen would not be barred from fishing in the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
In return, Filipinos would be allowed to fish again at Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, which China blockaded after seizing it from the Philippines in 2012.
The President said he had a verbal fishing deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2016.
However, some of his critics said that engaging in such a deal with China would be a violation of the Constitution and could be a ground for impeachment.
Section 2, Article 12 of the Constitution states: “The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”
But presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo defended the President, saying that the latter was “precisely going beyond that provision using Article 2 Section 4 of the Constitution. According to Panelo, the prime duty of government, which the President heads, is “to protect and to serve the people.”
The President also got sharp criticism for his initial reaction to the Recto Bank incident — in which a Chinese vessel hit a Filipino fishing boat and abandoned its crew of 22 as their boat sank.
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