PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte might have “misinterpreted” Chinese President Xi Jinping when he said Xi had threatened war if the Philippines explored for oil and gas in the Reed Bank, an underwater mountain near the Philippines, an official said Tuesday.
Ambassador to China Chito Santa Romana said Xi had only meant there would be a “conflict” if the Philippines went ahead with its plan to explore for oil and gas in the Reed Bank.
“Ang ginamit nila, ‘Kung pilitin n’yo, magkakaroon ng tunggalian.’ Ang ginamit sa Presidente, ‘Kung pilitin n’yo, magkakaroon tayo ng digmaan,” Santa Romana told GMA-7 television in defending the Chinese president.
He made his statement even as Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveors said Xi’s threat of war must be met with the strongest diplomatic protest from the Philippine government.
She said the threat was an act of aggression and bullying.
“It was also barefacedly undiplomatic. The fact that the threat was personally expressed to the Philippine president makes it more repugnant,” Hontiveros said.
She said the Duterte administration could not afford to waver in the face of the Chinese government’s belligerent behavior.
Santa Romana said the bilateral consultative mechanism on Friday had a “frank but friendly” discussion.
“Ang naranasan ko mismo sa pag-negotiate sa kanila noong Friday, kasi lantarang pinag-usapan namin lahat ng issues, ‘no? Frank but friendly,” said Santa Romana who was a journalist in China for decades.
Duterte said Chinese President Xi Jinping had threatened to start a war if the Philippines explored for oil in the Reed Bank.
But he said he asserted to Xi the Philippines’ right to its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippines Sea.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, however, was not keen on filing a diplomatic protest.
He said Duterte’s remarks was taken out of context and that China was not bullying or threatening.
Meanwhile, after four days China finally responded to Duterte’s statement.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Duterte and Xi had agreed to “strengthen communication” on important bilateral issues.
She said China was willing to work with the Philippines in handling disputes peacefully. With Macon Ramos-Araneta
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.