Vice president Leni Robredo (MNS photo)

MANILA, May 10 (Mabuhay) —  President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent remarks on the West Philippine Sea are matters of serious concern as these have implications for the country even past the term of the administration, Vice President Leni Robredo said Sunday.

“Seryoso yun kasi kasarinlan natin at sovereignty ang pinag-uusapan dito, na hindi mo pwede i-take lightly ang ganung decision. Kasi, kaya tayo umabot sa ganung punto dahil sa pananakop sa mga pag-aari natin,” Robredo said in her weekly radio show.

“Number 2, yung sinabi niya na China ang may possession ng West Philippine Sea, hgindi yun totoo.”

Robredo, who has been a vocal critic of the administration, said she had decided not to discuss political matters over the past few months due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

But Duterte’s description of the 2016 arbitration award on the South China Sea as a mere piece of paper that he will dump in the wastebasket, and claim that China is in possession of the West Philippine Sea prompted to her to speak up as these “wrong” and “pro-China” remarks, she said, should not be left unchallenged.

“Beyond yun sa amin, kasi kami, lilipas lang kami. Yung termino namin next year ay tapos na. Pero, yung issue na sinabi, para sa bansa natin long after wala na kami, mahalaga pa din yun para sa Pilipinas. Kaya, para sa akin, kailangan ‘to i-take seriously,” Robredo said.

She also lamented that these statements are coming out at a time when government should be focused on taking care of people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robredo said Duterte’s remarks could have been debunked if his debate with former Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio pushed through.

Duterte had designated his spokesman, Harry Roque, to debate with Carpio instead.

“Ang katotohanan talaga, marami sa mga kababayan natin hindi klaro ang issue sa West Philippine Sea,” Robredo said.

“Kung magkaroon ng discussion, di naman kailangan away ito eh, kung magkaroon ng public latagan ng kung ano talaga, tingin ko magiging very educational ito sa publiko. Sayang, nag-backout si Presidente.”

Malacañang had sought to clarify Duterte’s remark on the arbitral award, saying its context was “as far as China is concerned.”

“In other words, iyan ang reaksyon ng Tsina kaya binabalewala po iyan ng Tsina,” Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said in a press briefing a day after the President made the statement last week.

The Department of Foreign Affairs also said Duterte’s commitment to international agreements in relation to the maritime row in the West Philippine Sea in his first speech at the United Nations stands as the Philippines’ “supreme expression of foreign policy” on the waterway’s issue.

Manila and Beijing’s maritime spat flared again in March after more than 200 Chinese boats were spotted in the West Philippine Sea.

China has refused repeated calls from the Philippines to withdraw the boats, and tensions have intensified as Manila stepped up maritime patrols in the area.

Duterte had set aside Manila’s arbitral victory invalidating Beijing’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea over infrastructure and economic aid. China continues to ignore the ruling, instead ramping up its militarization and island-building activities in the disputed waters. (MNS)

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