MANILA - Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Senator Panfilo Lacson has "a fertile imagination" after the lawmaker criticized the government's handling of the Recto (Reed) Bank incident.
Lacson, on Sunday, said the government may weaken the Philippines' claim to Recto Bank with its plan to hold a joint probe with China into the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel.
Panelo, however, insisted that President Rodrigo Duterte's foreign policy "is based on reason, not emotion" and that the President was "not swayed by the hysterics of nitpicking nationalists."
"As the chief architect of foreign policy, the President strikes a balance between the interest of the nation and the country’s security, as against the threat of potential war with another," Panelo said in a statement.
"He maintains friendly and trade relations with other countries, even those with adversarial claims," Panelo added.
He said Duterte was being cautious and pragmatic with his statements on the issue.
Lacson said last week that Duterte’s description of the sinking of the Filipino boat a "maritime incident" had left Filipinos "heartbroken."
Panelo defended Duterte's remark saying the President was a wise tactician who "presses the right buttons, at the right time."
"The Reed Bank issue is a navigation incident, and the President treats it as such.
Panelo added that the government will run after "the guilty party" while it compensates the victims. He also said the country is not compromising its sovereignty.
"We shall assert and protect our sovereignty, from any assault coming from any part of the world," he said.
Last week, Lacson said Panelo appeared to be a "defense counsel" of Beijing after he remarked that conflicting accounts on the incident cast doubt on the testimonies of the Filipino fishermen.