Ex-President Duterte skips awards promoting 'PH-China understanding'

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 08 2023 08:47 PM

RTVM screengrab
RTVM screengrab

MANILA — Former President Rodrigo Duterte was not present during the 2023 Awards for Promoting Philippines-China Understanding (APPCU) on Thursday, which recognizes Filipinos’ efforts strengthening ties between the Philippines and China. 

Duterte is this year’s Hall of Fame awardee, along with former Special Envoy of the President to the People's Republic of China, Ambassador Carlos Chan. 

The former President pursued warmer relations with China in his 6 years in office, while Beijing offered infrastructure and pandemic aid amid its incursions in the West Philippine Sea. 

Based on a release, the Hall of Fame award acknowledges the individual’s “prestige and stature” and their huge efforts over time “as may be evidenced by the extent of reach, impact, and reception of the work/s by communities and societies.”

His former executive secretary, Salvador Medialdea, received the Hall of Fame award on his behalf. 

“It is indeed a great honor coming from this great organization whose main goal is to strengthen the relationship between the two nations,” Medialdea said in his speech. 

“I am sure former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will always cherish this award with the thought that both countries must continue to move forward in order to achieve what is best for all its people,” he added. 

APPCU cited Duterte’s “reestablishment of trust relations with China, which led to the stabilization of the South China Sea issues” recognized by other Asian leaders. 

This also led to the “reopening of fishermen’s access and expansion of tourism, trade, employment, and international investments in the Philippines,” the hosts said. 

Situation on the ground proved otherwise. Earlier this year, the Chinese Coast Guard reportedly drove away Filipino fishing boats in the West Philippine Sea and shadowed them until they left the area. 

In 2021, under the Duterte administration, Filipino fishermen were blocked by the Chinese Coast Guard near Pag-asa Island. Pag-asa Island is the largest island in the Kalayaan Island Group, serving as the seat of the local government of the Municipality of Kalayaan, Province of Palawan. 

Local officials had told the fisherfolk to avoid their sandbar fishing areas temporarily, as much as they wanted to assert their rights there.

The West Philippine Sea generates about 7 percent of the country's fisheries output in which a significant portion is shipped to Metro Manila, the fisheries bureau had said. 

China and the Philippines are at odds over the South China Sea, with Beijing claiming sovereignty over almost the entire area despite an international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims to parts of the sea, and Manila ordered its military last month to boost its presence in the contested waters after a report that China had started reclaiming several unoccupied land features around the Spratly Islands.

In a visit to Beijing this month, Marcos and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping both called for "friendly consultation to appropriately resolve maritime issues." 

Video from PTV