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Palace: President using ‘skillful diplomacy’ in territorial dispute



President Duterte is using “skillful diplomacy” to resolve the country’s territorial dispute with China without resorting to aggression or use of force, according to a Palace official.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo explained that the government continues to assert rights over the West Philippine Sea while keeping friendly ties with giant Asian neighbor.

“President Duterte, as the country’s chief architect of our foreign policy, has been using skillful diplomacy in dealing with our giant neighbor where both countries can peacefully discuss and resolve issues through a bilateral consultation mechanism,” he said.

Panelo dismissed as “reckless and “unintelligent” the proposal of government critics to gain control of territory and evict other claimants. Such aggressive move, he warned, could only trigger armed hostilities and eventually a “full-blown war” that will endanger the lives and properties of the Filipino people.

“This method has not been employed by the President, believing that the issue of the West Philippine Sea must not be the sum of our relationship with China,” Panelo said. “The 1987 Constitution similarly mandates him to observe friendly relations with other countries while directing him to act in accordance with his primordial duty of serving and protecting the Filipino people,” he added.

Panelo made the remarks after a Social Weather Stations survey showed majority of Filipinos wanted the government to assert the country’s rights to the West Philippine Sea.

The survey, conducted last June, showed 87 percent of the 1,2000 respondents wanting the government to assert territorial rights over the West Philippine Sea as stated in the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The latest poll was released on the third anniversary of the PCA decision that nullified China’s nine-dash claim over the disputed territory.

Panelo, however, said the premise of the survey was “wrong” after it assumed the Duterte administration was not asserting the rights over the West Philippine Sea. “This administration has asserted our rights over the same. There are many ways of asserting such rights,” he pointed out.

He also said they expect the President’s critics to “tweak and use” the poll results to lambast the administration over the West Philippine Sea issue.

But he reminded them that China has claimed possession over some disputed territories due to the alleged inept Aquino administration. (Genalyn Kabiling)