- President backtracked on plan to go and raise flag on Pag-asa Island
- He explained shelving, said friendship with China to be prioritized in the meantime
- China pleased, lauded Duterte for maintaining Fil-Sino relations
MANILA, Philippines – Out of respect for what he called “friendship” with China and the benefits Filipinos have reaped from it, President Rodrigo Duterte said he has shelved plans to go to Pag-asa Island and raise the flag there.
“Because of our friendship with China and because we value your friendship, I will not go there to raise the Philippine flag,” the Manila Bulletin quoted him as saying. “It has benefited us in so many ways. Gumanda ang buhay natin [Our lives have improved].”
Duterte revealed the turnaround came after Chinese officials convinced him the move would only cause friction between the two countries.
“Because China said), what will happen if every head of state of contending parties there around the West Philippine Sea will go there to plant the flag? There will likely be trouble,” he said. “They said, ‘do not go there in the meantime, just do not go there please.’ I will correct myself because we value our friendship with China.”
For their part, Beijing has expressed approval of Duterte’s latest announcement.
“As you can see, the situation of the South China Sea has improved recently. China-Philippines relationship has rapidly and improved in a healthy way. Of course we’re happy to see the Philippines and China can further meet each other in halfway, can properly manage the disputes and push forward the cooperation to make it further benefit peoples from two countries,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.”The improvement (of the relationship between China and the Philippines) will definitely have positive meaning for regional peace, stability, prosperity.”