What is a friend? Duterte insists China a ‘good friend’ we owe ‘debt’ to

April 29, 2021 - 5:13 PM
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Duterte in April 28 Speech
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on April 28, 2021. (Presidential Photo/King Rodriguez)

President Rodrigo Duterte in his national address aired Wednesday night insisted that China “is a good friend” that the country supposed owes a debt of gratitude to in terms of aid.

The chief executive made this remark in response to issues concerning the West Philippine Sea as Chinese vessels continue to encroach the Julian Felipe Reef near Palawan.

“I’m stating it for the record, we do not want war with China. China is a good friend. Mayroon tayong utang na loob na marami pati ‘yong bakuna natin. So China, let it be known, is a good friend, and we do not want a trouble with them, especially a war,” he said in his April 28 speech.

“But there are things which are not really subject to a compromise, kagaya nang ginawa mag-atras-atras. Mahirap po ‘yan. Sana they will understand but I have the interest of my country also to protect,” Duterte added.

“Kalaki ng utang na loob natin sa China. Tingnan niyo bakuna, libre. There are so many things—‘yong mga tulong nila. Pero sabihin ko na there are some things in life which cannot be bargainable and this is one of them,” he further said, referring to the country’s sovereignty rights in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippine Coast Guard has been boosting its presence within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by conducting maritime exercises to counter the presence of Chinese vessels in the disputed waters.

READ: Philippines says boosting maritime presence to protect territory, resources

The move came after hundreds of Chinese vessels were detected in Julian Felipe Reef, an area near the town of Bataraza in Palawan, last month.

A news team, which was supposed to visit Ayungin Shoal for coverage, was also chased by the vessels reportedly carrying missiles within the West Philippine Sea.

In addition to conducting maritime drills, the Philippines has been filing diplomatic protests against China in light of the issue.

‘A good friend does not exploit’ 

Duterte’s latest remarks about China being a “good friend” of the country prompted some Filipinos to remind him of its definition which they said does not include “being intrusive.”

This made the hashtag “#DuterteTraydor” land on local Twitter’s top trending list.

“Countries in ASEAN had been in conflict with China yet no war had happened. And a good friend? Really? Being intrusive to our territories and resources are considered good friends?  #DuterteTraydor,” a Twitter user said in response to his speech.

“We don’t owe anything from China, Mr. President. Maybe it’s you who owe China of still clinging unto power amidst your incompetence. And China is not a friend either, because a friend never intrudes a friend’s property. Periodt! #DuterteTraydor,” another online user wrote.

“A good friend DOES NOT exploit… #DuterteTraydor,” likewise commented another Filipino.

“Friends have mutual respect for each other. They respect each other’s boundaries (and) personal spaces. A party that breaks such respect is no friend. Oh, please, don’t take us for fools. #DuterteTraydor,” a Twitter user pointed out.

Merriam-Webster said the term “friend” has some of the following dictionary definitions:

  • One attached to another by affection or esteem
  • One that is not hostile
  • One that is of the same nation, party, or group
  • One that favors or promotes something (such as a charity)
  • A favored companion

China has been aggressively claiming territories in the West Philippine Sea despite the 2016 United Nations tribunal ruling that recognizes the Philippines’ sovereign rights over such contested areas in its EEZ.

Prior to the Julian Felipe Reef incident, the Asian giant was reported to be building structures in the Mischief or Panganiban Reef which is within EEZ in February.

Under the landmark ruling, Mischief Reef is a low-tide elevation, which means that the feature is not capable of appropriation as a territory.

It was also reported that China has been conducting illegal fishing in the West Philippine Sea and that it catches “about three million (metric tons of fish) or P300 billion” a year, according to the Agrifisheries Alliance.

“In this situation, China is not only violating our sovereignty, it is also robbing us of income and food. Small-scale farmers and fishermen are always on the losing end,” Sen. Francis Pangilinan said before.

It was also reported in December 2020 that out of the billions of dollars investment that China has pledged to the Philippines for infrastructure, “only a fraction” of it has materialized so far.

The aid from Beijing was supposed to boost the Duterte administration’s flagship program, the “Build, Build, Build,” which aims to build airports, seaports and highways to usher the country’s “golden age of infrastructure.”