MANILA, Philippines — Senator Manny Pacquiao, a known administration ally, admitted Monday that he finds President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent stance on Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea lacking.
“Sa akin, nakukulangan ako, nakukulangan ako kumpara doon sa bago pa siya tumakbo, nage-eleksyon pa lang. Dapat ipatuloy niya yun para magkaroon din naman tayo ng respeto [galing sa China],” Pacquiao told reporters in an online interview.
(For me, I find it lacking. I find it lacking compared to how he was before he ran for President. He should have continued that so that we get some respect.)
“Nakakapanghina dahil iba kasi yan doon sa simula (It’s discouraging because he was different back then),” he added.
The senator, who serves as the acting president of Duterte’s political party, was sought for comment on the chief executive’s pronouncement that the Philippines owes a debt of gratitude to China over its donated COVID-19 vaccines.
“For the record, we do not want war with China. China is a good friend. We owed it a big debt of gratitude, among others for the vaccines [it has donated to us],” Duterte said, speaking partly in Filipino, in a pre-recorded briefing last April 28.
Pacquiao recalled that prior to his presidential win, Duterte said he would ride a jet ski going to the Spratly Islands and other disputed areas and plant the Philippine flag there.
“Narinig natin bago mag-election, sa pangangampanya, nung sinabi niya na mag-jet ski siya, dala yung watawat ng Pilipinas doon, e siyempre, kahit ako sa puso ko, ito na yung iboboto ko dahil ito yung dapat na presidente, kailangan natin, na pinaglalaban yung bansa natin,” Pacquiao went on.
(We heard what he said before the elections as he was campaigning that he was going to ride a jet ski carrying the Philippine flag to the Spratlys, so of course I felt it in my heart to vote for him because that’s the kind of president that we need; someone who will fight for our country.)
“Tapos ito na, ito na yung crucial na pangyayari ngayon (Then this crucial event happened),” he added.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has been filing diplomatic protests against China over the lingering presence of Chinese vessels in various parts of the West Philippines Sea.
As Duterte earned widespread criticism for his stance on the matter, Malacañang defended the President’s remarks, saying his admission that he owed a great debt to China does not mean that he is giving up the country’s sovereignty over the West Philippines Sea.