MANILA - Vice President Leni Robredo should rely on her instincts as a mother and lawyer in making comments on the Philippines’ legal victory in the South China Sea, Malacañang said Friday.
Referring to Robredo as a “friend,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo urged the vice president to be more careful in commenting on the matter after she said it was “irresponsible” for President Rodrigo Duterte to set aside the Philippines' arbitral victory on the maritime dispute for a joint oil and gas exploration with China.
“We hope that the Vice President will be more circumspect in issuing statements on the matter and rely more on her instinct as a lawyer and mother protective of those she is constitutionally tasked to shepherd,” Panelo said.
“What is ‘profoundly disappointing and extremely irresponsible,’ to borrow her words, is her evolving penchant of finding fault in every word the President says, as well as issuing misplaced and flamboyant remarks against it,” he said.
Robredo, who resigned from Duterte’s Cabinet 3 years ago, said Thursday that any agreement "should not come at the expense of upholding our rights to the West Philippine Sea.”
The Vice President made the statement in response to the President's remark that Chinese President Xi Jinping told him that Beijing was ready to be a minority partner in a joint energy venture at the Recto (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea if Manila sets aside the July 2016 arbitral victory that invalidated Beijing's expansive 9-dash line claim.
The West Philippine Sea is the country's exclusive economic zone in the disputed South China Sea.
“Selling that future for a gas deal with China is a shameful way of abandoning that responsibility," she said.
Panelo, also the President’s chief legal counsel, also suggested that Robredo replace her political advisers with “erudite intellectuals” who are familiar with diplomacy.
“The problem with my friend Vice President Leni Robredo is the inability of her political advisers to comprehend the complexities of our current situation with China,” he said.
“She may want to change them with some erudite intellectuals knowledgeable in geopolitics and in the art of diplomacy,” he said.
Panelo also assured Robredo that Duterte is not abandoning the ruling despite China’s refusal to recognize it.
“We advise our former Cabinet colleague VP Robredo that the President is not, in any way, nor by any stretch, surrendering our rights over the West Philippine Sea. The arbitral ruling, as the President has repeatedly said, is final, binding and unappealable,” he said.