‘No meaning’ in Palace displaying only Chinese flag during Xi visit, says Lorenzana

MANILA, Philippines – The image of a lone Chinese flag in Malacañang had caught the attention of many, saying it was a breach in protocol, but for Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana there’s not much to it.

“There is no meaning there, believe me. Malacañang thinks this is correct dahil ginawa nila 'yun eh (otherwise they wouldn’t have done it),” Lorenzana said in an interview Wednesday, November 22. (READ: Breach in protocol over PH presidential flag during Xi's state visit)

Lorenza said he “frankly did not notice” that only the Chinese flag was present behind presidents Rodrigo Duterte and Xi Jinping as they made their way past the honor guards in Malacañang during Xi’s state visit.

This was also the case for him, he said, for previous visits, such as that of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2017. Unlike Abe’s visit, however, Xi made a state visit to the Philippines – the highest a foreign leader can make to another country.

Research by Rappler showed that under the Duterte administration, the absence of the Philippine presidential flag and the lone presence of the guest’s country flag during the welcome ceremony and review of the guards for Xi was unlike any other state visits. 

Lorenzana said he would not approve if the Philippine flag was not present, but that, in this case, he thought both flags to be present with honor guards. (READ: Philippine military navigates ties with China)

“They are in our land. This is our country. Siguro pang-respeto lang sa kanya 'yan (Perhaps that was just a show of respect to the guest),” he said.

Loredana added, “Dont give meanings to these things. Do not torture our minds.”

The flag that bears the official coat of arms of the President of the Philippines is usually present wherever the chief executive is present, especially during the review of guards.

According to historian and former presidential communications undersecretary Manuel Quezon III, it is “one of the oldest official protocol [practices].”

And while protocols may change depending on the sitting president, Quezon said such instances “can be a dramatic statement with deep meaning, without having to say anything.” – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.