Palace: PH won’t lose territory over ‘debt of gratitude’ to China

THE Philippines will not give any inch of its territory to China, Malacañang has assured the public, following President Rodrigo Duterte’s admission that he owed a great debt to Beijing over its donation and delivery of vaccines against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said Duterte’s latest remarks does not mean surrendering authority on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

“It is in connection doon sa pangako niya na walang teritoryong mawawala sa atin habang siya po ay Presidente (It is in connection with his promise that we will not lose any territory while he is the President),” Roque said in a virtual press briefing on Friday.

Roque also said there was nothing wrong with Duterte’s latest statement that the Philippines has a “huge debt of gratitude” to China for donating 1 million of Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccines.

“Hanggang ngayon naman po, ang aasahan lang natin, Sinovac. Aminin po natin iyan. Ilang buwan na tayong nagsimula eh Sinovac ang naaasahan talaga natin. So tama lang po na tumanaw ng utang na loob (Until now, we only rely on Sinovac. Let’s admit that. It has been months since we started our vaccination and it’s only Sinovac that we can rely on. It’s only right to honor our debt of gratitude),” he said.

The Chinese government has so far donated one million doses of CoronaVac, the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese drugmaker Sinovac BioTech, all of which have been delivered.

The Philippine government also procured 25 million doses of CoronaVac, 2.5 million of which was also delivered.

Duterte, during his public address on Wednesday night, vowed that the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the disputed waters would not be compromised, even if China is the country’s “good friend.”

The President, however, said he has no plan to launch a futile war against the communist state.

Citing international law, Roque said waging a war against any country was a “crime of aggression.”

“‘Yung punto na hindi tayo pupuwedeng magsimula ng giyera iyan po ay nakaukit na sa international law, krimen nga po iyan kapag tayo ay gumamit ng dahas, iyan po iyong crime ng aggression (In terms of launching a war, the international law states that it is a crime of aggression to use violence),” he said.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) defines the crime of aggression as the “planning, preparation, initiation or execution, by a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State, of an act of aggression which, by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations.”

The act of aggression, according to the ICC, is the “use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another state, in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations.”

Roque said that while Duterte intended to further improve ties with China, he wanted to assure the public that there was a “limit” to Manila’s friendship with Beijing.

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea, but the Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidated this in July 2016, recognizing the Philippines’ sovereignty in the area.

Duterte has decided to temporarily shelve the ruling to maintain peace, stability, and cordial relations among claimant countries in the region.

The President, however, said he would raise the ruling “maybe once” before his term ends in 2022.