MANILA - Sen. Manny Pacquiao on Wednesday refuted President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that he should educate himself more about the Philippines' foreign policy before commenting on Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea.
Pacquiao said while he respected Duterte's opinion, he "humbly disagrees" with the President's "assessment of my understanding of foreign policy."
"I firmly believe that my statement reflects the sentiment of majority of the Filipinos, that we should stand strong in protecting our sovereign rights while pursuing a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the dispute," the senator said in a statement sent to reporters.
"I am a Filipino voicing out what needs to be said in defense of what has been adjudicated as rightfully ours," he said.
Duterte earlier said Pacquiao had a "very shallow knowledge" about his administration's policy on the West Philippine Sea, which China has claimed despite a 2016 arbitral ruling in favor of Manila.
Duterte gave the comment a month after Pacquiao noted the the President's stance against China's reclamation and militarization of features in the South China Sea has waned after he assuming power in 2016.
"Nakukulangan ako doon, kumpara doon sa bago siya tumakbo eleksyon pa lang. Dapat ituloy niya yun para magkaroon ng respeto sa atin ang China," the senator said in a virtual press conference in May.
(I found the President's response lacking compared as to when he was still running for the national elections. He should continue with our strong stance so China would respect us.)
During a televised election debate in 2016, Duterte said he would personally go to the West Philippine Sea to raise the Philippine flag.
Shortly after winning the 2016 presidential elections, a UN-backed court in The Hague invalidated China's 9-dash line claim in the South China Sea.
Duterte did not enforce the ruling as he forged closer ties with Beijing in exchange for loans for his administration's massive infrastructure push.
Duterte and Pacquiao lead the ruling PDP-Laban as chairman and acting president, respectively.
Last month, the boxer-turned-senator issued a document urging PDP-Laban members to "ignore" party vice chair and Energy Secretary Alfornso Cusi's call for an assembly in Cebu, saying the gathering is not sanctioned by the party leadership.
But Duterte, PDP-Laban's chairman, told Cusi and other members to proceed with the meeting that resulted in an endorsement for the former to seek the vice presidency next year and choose his presidential tandem.
Pacquiao, meanwhile, is rumored to run for President.
Malacañang said Duterte and Pacquiao remain allies.