PNoy on Duterte: I presume he's a patriot

ABS-CBN News

Palace urges incoming administration to get facts straight on West PH Sea

presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte and Outgoing President Benigno Aquino III

MANILA - Outgoing President Benigno Aquino III believes presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte is a patriot and will do what is best for the country and the Filipino people.

In an interview with The New York Times' Javier Hernandez in MalacaƱang on Thursday, Aquino was asked about the differences between his and Duterte's policies in handling the Philippines' sea row with China.

According to Aquino, the tough-talking Davao City mayor will be given facts which he shall review once he assumes office on June 30.

"I presume, for me, he's a patriot and he will do what is best for our country," said Aquino.

Outgoing Presidential Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma, likewise called on the incoming administration to get their facts straight regarding the West Philippine Sea.

"It's the prerogative of the incoming President to seek and obtain complete and accurate information on matters of national interest, especially on foreign policy," Coloma said in a statement.

"It will be well to go beyond the realm of conjecture and focus on confirmed facts from credible and authoritative resource persons as basis for sound policy- and decision-making," he added.

This was in response to Duterte's remarks regarding the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, which, he claimed, the Philippines lost to China in 2012.

Duterte said he is interested to ask the Aquino administration why and how China was supposedly able to take control of the Scarborough Shoal after a tense standoff.

The Philippines has a pending case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands.

But China, which claims sovereignty over almost the entire resource-rich sea, has boycotted the proceedings and rejected the court's authority in the case.

A decision in the case is expected this year.

During the third and last leg of the PiliPinas Debates on April 24, Duterte said if the arbitration court issues a favorable ruling to the Philippines and China refuses to honor its decision, he will ask the Philippine Navy to bring him to the boundary of Spratlys so he can "ride a jet ski while bringing the Philippine flag."

His plan: go to the airport built by China on reclaimed land in the Spratlys and plant the Philippine flag there. Only then will he say: "This is ours. Do what you want with me."

READ: Duterte wants to be a hero in dispute vs China

Aquino, meanwhile, defended Philippines' strong alliance with the United States amid rising tensions with China.

The Philippines and US signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which grants the US increased military presence in the country.

"Too open? Well, if they look at it realistically, can we do it all by our self? Can we assert our rights all by our self?" quipped Aquino, adding that it is necessary to have the world public opinion on the Philippine side.

READ: U.S., Philippines agree on 5 base locations under EDCA

REFORMS, GAINS

Meanwhile, the outgoing president trumpeted the reforms his administration has started, which he will now pass on to the incoming government of Duterte.

Aquino said 4.6 million households now live better lives and about 300,000 high school graduates are assured of a better future, all because of the government's conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.

He also boasted of the high economic growth during his six years in office as well as the lower unemployment rate and increased membership with the health insurance program.

He added that the worsening traffic situation in the metro only "indicates the intense economic activity that is happening."

"How do you actually move from a situation of poverty to that which you are able to take care of your basic needs? To us, it has been all of these investments in education, in the CCT, in the health insurance, in increasing infrastructure spending, and doing all of these things without increasing any tax except the sin tax," he said.

He also took a swipe at those who had supposedly taken it as an occupation to criticize his administration instead of just helping them.

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT

According to Aquino, he considers the Filipino people's change of mindset from being hopeless to "now thinking that there are no limits to what our aspirations should be and can be" as his greatest achievement as president.

READ: PNoy's greatest legacy? No more apathy among Pinoys

Aquino said he is hoping that the people will demand more from the incoming administration, claiming that his government has already laid out the "stepping stone to even greater heights."

"Hopefully, our people will continue to be engaged and will demand of those who'll replace us even more than what we have produced," he said. "'Cause those that succeed us will have less problems than what we have when we started."