MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte was only ribbing the Filipino nation when he mentioned that the Philippines can either be a United States territory or a province of China if it cannot fight its own battles, his spokesman said Thursday.
Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo clarified the President’s remarks, saying the chief executive made the comment in response to criticism of the government’s decision to abrogate its Visiting Forces Agreement with the US.
“Ano lang niya yun, sinasabi lang niya kung hindi natin kaya maging gobyerno, magpa-colonize na lang tayo. 'Yun ang ibig niyang sabihin,” Panelo told reporters in Malacañang.
(What he meant was that if we cannot handle being a government then let’s just be a colony.)
Duterte on Wednesday night said the Philippines has no business being a republic if it cannot handle its own defense and might as well be a US territory or a province of China.
“Kasi ‘pag hindi natin kaya (If we can’t do it), we have no business being a Republic. You might as well choose. We can be a territory of the Americans, or we can be a province of China, kung hindi natin kaya,” Duterte said in a speech at the 2020 Ani ng Dangal Awards in Malacañang.
In defending his decision to abrogate Manila’s VFA with Washington, Duterte said Filipino troops are still the ones handling the country’s communist insurgency and illegal drugs problem despite advanced technologies of the US.
Asked why the President specifically mentioned China as an option, Panelo downplayed the remark and explained that it was just a “reference.”
“Whether China or any other country ano lang 'yun, parang reference lang niya 'yun. That was just a general statement. Kantiyaw sa sarili nating bansa,” Panelo said.
(It’s like a reference. That was just a general statement. He’s ribbing our own country.)
Duterte has openly discussed his decision to adopt a friendlier stance towards Beijing despite lingering disputes over the South China Sea, which China claims in near entirety since he assumed office in 2016.