MANILA—National Security Adviser Sec. Clarita Carlos on Thursday defended the Duterte administration's policy on addressing the dispute between Manila and Beijing, saying it was "just right."
Following the highly-awaited trip of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, Carlos said former President Rodrigo Duterte took action he could only do amid the Philippines' tensions with China, particularly over the South China Sea.
During an interview with ABS-CBN TeleRadyo, anchor Doris Bigornia read a viewer's comment, saying Pelosi was not intimidated by China's threats over her Taiwan trip, while the tough-talking Duterte appeased the superpower throughout his presidential term.
Carlos disagreed with it, saying it is not right to say Duterte was scared.
"I think the previous administration's stance could not be any other stance because that is the height of pragmatism. Alangan bungguin mo ang China, and you know what the level of its capability as a military power," she told.
"So I think what the Duterte administration did was just right for the conditions at the time which continues to the present," she added.
Duterte temporarily shelved the 2016 landmark ruling by the U-UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration favoring the Philippines’ maritime claims in the South China Sea, in favor of economic assistance and investments.
Critics had slammed what they called Duterte's appeasement policy towards China, describing it as kowtowing to Beijing.
Carlos, meanwhile, said if she gets to meet US State Secretary Antony Blinken during his expected visit in Manila this week, she would urge the Americans to take careful steps in the Indo-Pacific amid alarmingly high tensions in the region.
"I’ll be on the same page with him (Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.), that we should show some concern. Na sana ingatan nila 'yung kanilang relasyon ... kasi parang nagiging playground nila itong rehiyon natin," she said.
"Andami naman nilang levels of cooperation dapat eh —climate change, protection of the environment, maritime security—na pwede nilang gampanan. So bakit ang conflict ang nananaig?" Carlos added.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price earlier confirmed that the American top diplomat will meet Marcos to talk about both countries' "increased cooperation on energy, trade, and investment, advancing our shared democratic values, and pandemic recovery."
"We welcome the statements that President Marcos recently made about the importance of preserving the Philippines’ territorial integrity," East Asian and Pacific Affairs Assistant Secretary Daniel J. Kritenbrink also said in a press conference following the release of Blinken's official trip next month.
"Secretary Blinken will reinforce and underscore to our Philippine allies that our commitment to our Mutual Defense Treaty is ironclad."