MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte’s popularity will remain unscathed even as criticism on his handling of Manila’s maritime dispute with Beijing persists, Malacañang said Thursday.
Duterte, who in 2016 made history when he became the first city mayor and first Mindanaoan to be elected president, would “definitely” stay as a popular leader among Filipinos, his spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
“Sinasabi nga ni Presidente na ‘it doesn’t matter kung popular ako o hindi, basta ang gagawin ko I will perform my duty in the constitution as directed to me’,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.
(The President is saying that it doesn’t matter whether he is popular or not. He will simply perform his constitutional duty as directed.)
Duterte’s satisfaction rating rose to “excellent” in the first quarter of the year as more Filipinos, at 81 percent, expressed satisfaction with the national government’s general performance, results of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed.
He, however, has courted criticism in the last month for downplaying the allision of a Filipino fishing boat and a Chinese ship near the Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea, the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the disputed South China Sea.
His revelation of a 2016 verbal agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping that allows Beijing to fish in Manila’s EEZ also drew outrage from critics who want the Philippines to stand up for its territory and sovereign rights.
“Hindi naman ito popularity game sabi niya (Duterte),” Panelo said.
(This is not a popularity game according to the President)
Duterte has avoided increasing tensions with China even as the economic giant continues to claim nearly all of the South China Sea.