President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent statement regarding Pag-asa Island effectively invoked the arbitral ruling, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said during the April 15 press briefing.
“The Pag-asa Island belongs to us – of course, China would never do that. I assure you. Unless China wants a war with us. I — hindi ako papayag kung pati ‘yang Pag-asa i-occupy nila? No, of course not,” President Duterte said during an interview after the 31st Annual Convention of the Prosecutor’s League of the Philippines in Palawan.
Panelo said “effectively his previous statement, earlier, when he said ‘do not touch our property and if you do any harm to our soldiers, we will respond in kind.’ That effectively has already made a very strong assertion of sovereignty and statement relative to the arbitral ruling.”
When asked if we are supposed to take President Duterte’s statement as the President invoking the arbitral ruling when he said that, Panelo said “exactly, yes.”
“We have been saying that our statements in the past, where studied responses or calibrated responses. We could not immediately make any statement on any report vis-à-vis the presence of vessels or any act of harassment until we validate them. It is only one we validate them that we make our diplomatic protest. And if they insist then we make strong statements against it,” he explained.