Malacañang on Thursday sought to clarify another remark from President Rodrigo Duterte, this time on the country's 2016 arbitral victory against China on the South China Sea which the latter referred to as "just a piece of paper" that he will dump in a wastebasket.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said the context of the President's remark was "as far as China is concerned."
"In other words, iyan ang reaksyon ng Tsina kaya binabalewala po iyan ng Tsina," he said in a press briefing.
(In other words, that is the reaction of China, that's why China ignores that.)
Duterte, in a late night speech on Wednesday, likened to a piece of "paper" the landmark arbitration award that invalidated Beijing's sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea, which includes the West Philippine Sea.
"Sabi nila, itong papel sa kaso, nanalo tayo, i-pursue mo. Pinursue ko, walang nangyari," Duterte said.
"Actually sa usapang bugoy, sabihin ko sa ‘yo, bigay mo sa akin, sabihin ko, ‘P***** *** papel lang ‘yan, itatapon ko ‘yan sa wastebasket.'"
(They tell me to pursue this paper because we won. I pursued it but nothing happened. Actually, if you give that to me, I will tell you, 'Son of *****, I will throw that in the wastebasket.')
Roque said Duterte had already told the United Nations that the Philippines "rejects attempts to undermine" the arbitral ruling.
"That is why you have to construe his statement in the proper context, and that context is what he said in the UN General Assembly," Roque said.
"The context, the proper construction should be pursuant to what he said to the UN General Assembly, which is the most authoritative declaration of the Duterte administration policy on the West Philippine Sea," he added.
Members of the House of Representatives' progressive Makabayan bloc called out Duterte over his remarks, saying it just proves that he is not concerned about Filipinos who depend on the resource-rich waters within the Philippines exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for their livelihood.
"Napakatindi po ng implication nito na nagmumula mismo sa bibig ng isang Pangulo na para mo nang sinusuko niya ang soberanya ng ating bansa despite this historic victory," Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said.
Manila and Beijing's spat flared again in March after hundreds of Chinese boats were spotted inside the Philippines' EEZ.
China has refused repeated calls from the Philippines to withdraw the boats, and tensions have intensified as Manila steps up maritime patrols in the area.
Once-frosty ties between the two countries had warmed under Duterte, who set aside the ruling in exchange for promises of trade and investment that critics say have largely not materialized.
Facing growing domestic pressure to take a harder line, Duterte said last week the Philippine maritime patrols would continue, insisting its sovereignty over the waters was not negotiable.
It is not the first time that Duterte's alter egos have sought to clarify some of the 76-year-old leader's remarks.
In March, Roque also explained that private firms that want to import COVID-19 vaccines are still required to enter a tripartite deal with the national government, after Duterte said he is allowing the private sector to import the product "at will."
In May 2017, then Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella also said that Duterte would not defy the Supreme Court in case it rules against the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
The statement was made after Duterte said days earlier: “Hindi ako makinig sa iba. Mga Supreme Court, ‘yung mga congressman, wala man sila dito. Ba’t, sila ba ang nagpapakamatay? Sila ba ang naghihirap dito? Sila ba ‘yung... They will suffer the wounds of war? Sila ba ‘yung nagtitiis? Sila ba ‘yung namamatay na nauubusan ng dugo, bleeding? Naghe-hemorrhage kay walang tulog, walang reinforcement. Hindi sila.”
Duterte's statement during his fourth State of the Nation Address in July 2019 that the Philippine Coast Guard could not drive away China from disputed waters as the latter was already "in possession" of areas within the West Philippine Sea, was also clarified later by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr.
"I think the President did not say that they (China) are in possession, but that they are in position," National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon had said.