Philippine vice president blasts ‘reckless’ Duterte over China deal

Leni Robredo also leads the opposition in the Philippines. (File/AFP)
Updated 12 September 2019

Philippine vice president blasts ‘reckless’ Duterte over China deal

  • Robredo said Duterte’s remarks were “profoundly disappointing”
  • The arbitral ruling is still subject to talks between the two countries

MANILA: The vice president of the Philippines on Thursday rebuked the country’s leader for being “reckless” in suggesting he would consider ignoring an arbitration ruling in its favor over a territorial dispute with China in order to forge a joint energy deal with Beijing.
Leni Robredo, who also leads the opposition, described as “extremely irresponsible” President Rodrigo Duterte’s apparent openness to concede to China and accept its offer to jointly develop gas reserves, which an international tribunal ruled Manila had the right to exploit.
Entering into any deal should not come at the expense of upholding the country’s rights in the South China Sea, Robredo said in a statement.
Robredo was elected separately to Duterte and was not his running mate. She has a frosty relationship with the president, who often mocks her during his public speeches.
Duterte on Tuesday said Chinese President Xi Jinping told him that Beijing was ready to be a minority partner in a joint energy venture at the Reed Bank, but the Philippines must first set aside the 2016 award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, a ruling China does not recognize.
Its interpretation of maritime boundaries also ruled that China’s claim to most of the South China Sea had no legal basis under United Nations maritime law, in what was a big blow to Beijing.
Robredo said Duterte’s remarks were “profoundly disappointing” and said the Philippine constitution already allowed partnerships with foreign firms within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), without the need to make concessions.
The arbitral ruling is still subject to talks between the two countries, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told a regular news conference. Meanwhile, the countries could focus on items that could be of mutual benefit, he added.
Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has pursued warmer ties with China, avoiding criticism or confrontation with Beijing exchange for billions of dollars in loans, grants and investment, much of which have yet to arrive.
Former Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, who was among those who sought arbitration, said Duterte did not need to give anything away.
“To come up with an economic activity in our EEZ need not involve setting aside the arbitral ruling and running afoul of the constitution,” del Rosario said.


Philippines to charter flight to bring home citizens from Lebanon

Updated 08 August 2020

Philippines to charter flight to bring home citizens from Lebanon

  • Remains of four who died in Tuesday’s massive blast in Beirut also to be repatriated

MANILA: The Philippines will soon be sending a chartered flight to Lebanon to bring back Filipinos impacted by a massive explosion at the port of Beirut as early as next week, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Saturday.

“The DFA is paying P15,000,000 ($305,643) from its funds for a chartered Qatar Air flight to repatriate from Beirut. The Philippine Embassy in Beirut is negotiating it and disbursing the amount. Aug. 16 is [the date set for] arrival,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said, adding that the flight will also bring home the remains of four Filipinos who died in Tuesday’s blast.

Around 400 Filipinos from Lebanon are expected to return following the catastrophic explosion, which decimated the Lebanese capital.

On Friday, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Sarah Lou Arriola said that President Rodrigo Duterte was responding to the “clamor of Filipinos in Lebanon” and that the “chartered flight is the most concrete, immediate and timely assistance” that the DFA could provide given the current situation there.

Reports state that the deadly explosion was caused by a cargo of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, stored at a warehouse in the port of Beirut for years. 

The odorless chemical is commonly used as an agricultural fertilizer but is also used to make powerful bombs.

“With ground operations clearing more area and embassy personnel receiving additional reports, the department is taking in new inputs with regard to the status of the Filipino community in the country,” the DFA said in a statement. 

Data released by the DFA placed the number of Filipinos impacted at 48, with 42 wounded, four dead, and two missing.

“By day’s end yesterday, the number of injured oversees Filipino workers stands at 42, an increase of 11 from the previous report,” Arriola said.

Two of the wounded remained in critical condition and were being monitored at the Rizk Hospital.

“We were also alerted that another Filipino was reported missing, increasing the number to two. The number of Filipino fatalities, meanwhile, remains at four,” she added.

The DFA said that, earlier, it had expected the number of affected Filipinos to increase considering the magnitude of the Beirut destruction.

Even before the onset of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the DFA had begun its repatriation activities from Lebanon to limit the worsening condition of Filipinos in the country due to economic woes. It has repatriated at least 1,508 Filipinos from Lebanon since December 2019.