Arroyo defends Duterte response to Philippine boat sinking

Paterno Esmaquel II
'Take a calibrated response and be as civil as they have to be. I think that's the right approach,' former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo says, referring to the administration's handling of the incident

DUTERTE ALLY. Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo does President Rodrigo Duterte's signature fist pump in Malacañang on October 9, 2018. Malacañang photo

MANILA, Philippines – Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo defended the response of President Rodrigo Duterte after a Chinese vessel sank a Philippine boat near Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

In an interview with ANC, Arroyo said Duterte and Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr have taken the “right approach.”

Arroyo – one of the Philippines’ most unpopular presidents, who is now speaker of the House of Representatives – said she has “full confidence” in how Duterte and Locsin view the issue. 

“Take a calibrated response and be as civil as they have to be. I think that’s the right approach,” Arroyo said in the interview quoted by ABS-CBN News on Friday, June 14.

Stressing the need to boost ties with China, Arroyo added: “China is our big neighbor in the north. Shouldn’t we be friends with our big neighbor in the north?” 

During her presidency from 2001 to 2010, Arroyo cozied up to China and signed a controversial joint exploration agreement in the South China Sea. A case challenging the constitutionality of this agreement is pending before the Supreme Court. (READ: Why China chose Arroyo over Aquino)

Duterte, who has also adopted a China-friendly policy, has stayed silent on the June 9 boat sinking incident.  

Locsin, while claiming he has filed a diplomatic protest against China, has not lashed out against China over the sinking of a Filipino boat. He has instead vented his anger on others, at one point saying “fuck the international community” when asked to get support from other countries. –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at