MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte may not be making any public statements so far about a China chopper harassing a Philippine Navy rubber boat in Ayungin Shoal, but he expressed concern about the safety of the military personnel involved.
He had conveyed this during a confidential meeting with Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Santa Romana on Monday, May 28.
Duterte was "seriously concerned about the safety of the Philippine soldiers," a source privy to the meeting told Rappler.
The meeting had been called to brief Duterte on the then-upcoming congressional hearing on the West Philippine Sea and tackled the note verbale sent by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to China on the incident in Ayungin Shoal.
There had also been a report on the progress of Philippine government projects in Pag-asa Island and other West Philippine Sea features held by the Philippines.
Duterte gave "strong instructions" during the meeting, said Cayetano in the hearing at the House of Representatives on Wednesday, May 30.
Duterte has not publicly referred to the May 11 Ayungin Shoal incident in any of his speeches. He has, however, been stressing in recent public speeches that he has no choice but to stay on China's good side because the only alternative, supposedly, is to go to war against the Asian giant.
"Ako, gusto ko (Me, I want to). I really want to do something to assert," said the President in a speech on May 22.
Cayetano had previously said that the Monday meeting with Duterte was "to propose two more systems to allow immediate action" in the West Philippine Sea. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.