MANILA, Philippines – Presidential aspirant and Senator Manny Pacquiao said he would not allow China to bully the Philippines, even suggesting that Manila goes to war if needed.
In Pacquiao’s media spree two weeks before the campaign season, he said he would create a “peace panel” – a body that would attend to matters concerning the West Philippine Sea.
“Panindigan ‘yung pinanghahawakan natin na panalo tayo [sa Hague ruling]. Bubuo tayo ng peace panel na makipag-communicate sa lahat ng involved sa West Philippine Sea para magkaroon ng maraming pag-uusap kung ano talaga ang solusyon sa problema,” Pacquiao said in the presidential interview hosted by DZRH and Manila Times on Saturday, January 29.
(We need to uphold our victory in the Hague ruling. We will create a peace panel that would communicate to all those involved in West Philippine Sea issues so that there would be a lot of dialogue on what should be the real solution to our problems.)
Pacquiao said that he would also invite neighboring countries that have a stake in the South China Sea, but not the United States. He did not elaborate.
Earlier, retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio said that the Philippines and other coastal states in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN should form a coalition to “oppose China’s hegemony and bullying” in the South China Sea.
While it seemed Pacquiao was leaning toward dialogue and diplomacy, the boxing icon-turned-politician also said that if he were president and China attacked the Philippines, he would not think twice about defending the country.
“‘Pag dumating ang scenario na ‘yan, tayong mga Pilipino, tayo ay palaban eh. ‘Di lamang sa bansang Tsina, sa buong mundo, ang Pilipino, hindi tayo umaatras. Kaya nating ibuwis ang buhay natin para sa ating bansa,” Pacquiao said.
(If that scenario happens, we, Filipinos, are fighters. We don’t back down – not only against China but any nation in the world. We can lay down our lives for our country.)
He then cited the national anthem, “Kaya natin kinakanta, ‘Ang mamatay nang dahil sa’yo.” (That is why we sing, “Thy sons to suffer and die.”)
He answered the same when asked if the Philippines would engage in a defensive war with China during an interview with talk show host Boy Abunda that aired Friday, January 28.
Pacquiao told Abunda that the country’s ancestors fought for the Philippines. “Bakit hindi natin gagawin din ‘yan kung sakali (Why wouldn’t we do the same if the situation arises)?” he added.
In another interview with radio DZBB on Thursday, January 27, Pacquiao said that he would ask the Philippine Coast Guard to protect Filipino fishermen when fishing in the West Philippine Sea.
“Lahat ng mangingisda, gusto ko malaya silang mangingisda sa ating bansa, sa teritoryo natin. At ang gagawin natin diyan, pabantayan natin ng mga Coast Guard natin para hindi sila takutin [ng China]. Hindi sila paalisin, ipagtabuyan,” the presidential aspirant said.
(I want the fisherfolk to have the freedom to fish in our country, in our territory. I would ask the Coast Guard to help out so that the fisherfolk would not be harassed by China. They would not be asked to leave nor driven away.
Still OK with ICC probe
Pacquiao was a staunch ally of President Rodrigo Duterte before the two engaged in a word war over the senator’s stance on the West Philippine Sea.
The friction between the two culminated in the split of the ruling party PDP-Laban. Pacquiao is running under PROMDI, while the faction where Duterte belongs does not have a presidential candidate or anyone it supports as of the moment.
In October 2021, Pacquiao said he would allow International Criminal Court (ICC) investigators to enter the country. Less than a month later, in November, the senator met with the President in a meeting arranged by Pacquiao’s friend, 1-Pacman Party List Representative Eric Pineda.
Still, it appears that Pacquiao and Duterte’s once rosy relationship was no more. The senator, however, said that he does not have any beef with Duterte.
Despite these developments, when it came to the ICC probe into Duterte’s war on drugs, Pacquiao’s stance remained unchanged.
“Papayagan natin sila na mag-investigate sila sa atin basta hindi maabuso ang sovereignty natin,” Pacquiao told Abunda. (We would allow them to investigate in the country as long our sovereignty would not be abused.)
The ICC has temporarily “suspended” the probe after the Philippines’ request to defer the investigation. ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan, in November 2021, asked the Philippine government to submit proof of genuine local investigation into the bloody drug war. – Rappler.com