MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to defend the West Philippine Sea as he delivered his 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 23.
In his SONA 2018, Duterte said the Philippines’ “reenergized relations with China” have led to “an unprecedented level of cooperation” in fighting illegal drugs.
“Our shared intelligence led to the discovery and dismantling of the clandestine shabu laboratories and the arrest of Chinese chemists with the Dragon organization called Wu Syndicate,” Duterte said.
“Our improved relationship with China, however, does not mean that we will waver in our commitment to defend our interests in the West Philippine Sea,” the President added.
Duterte also stressed that the Philippines will continue pursuing an “independent foreign policy” – which critics said is independent only from the US but subservient to China.
Duterte delivered this speech before an audience that included Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua.
Nearly two weeks before Duterte’s SONA, the Philippines marked the second anniversary of its legal victory against China over the South China Sea, parts of which the Philippines claims as the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte downplays this ruling, however, as Manila seeks economic gains from Beijing.
A recent Social Weather Stations survey said 4 out of 5 Filipinos said it was wrong for the Duterte administration to do nothing about China’s militarization of the West Philippine Sea. – Rappler.com