Duterte not reneging on WPS pledge, says Roque

What’s the joke about President Duterte’s promise to ride a Jet Ski to the Spratlys and plant a Philippine flag there to assert the country’s sovereignty over the area?

After the President said he was just kidding when he made that vow, his spokesperson Harry Roque said this did not mean that the Chief Executive was reneging on his stand to protect Philippine territory.

“The joke there is that he will literally ride a Jet Ski. But his stand remains true,” Roque told reporters.

Not literally

He said Mr. Duterte’s promise should not be taken literally and was symbolic of his position that he was ready to fight—and die—to preserve the country’s sovereignty over the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“The President’s position has not changed. He will not give an inch of territory, he will fight for it. But for now it is better if we develop a friendship with China because it is in our national interest,” he said.

Disputed territories

Speaking at a police activity on Thursday, Mr. Duterte said he was kidding when he said he would ride a Jet Ski to disputed territories and plant the flag there if China refused to recognize an international court ruling in favor of the Philippines.

His latest statement comes amid increasingly friendly ties between Manila and Beijing under his administration.

Mr. Duterte has set aside for the meantime the Philippine victory in the UN-backed tribunal, which invalidated Beijing’s extensive claims over the South China Sea. In return, China has offered multibillion dollars worth of aid and loans to Manila.

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