The Philippines has not lost a single inch of its territory to China under President Rodrigo Duterte’s watch, according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, even promising to quit public office if proven otherwise.
Cayetano on Monday, May 28, dared his critics to prove the Duterte administration failed in protecting the country’s rights over disputed islands in the South China Sea.
“I challenge anyone of them. Whatever their professions are—justice, politician, newsman, journalist—if we lost a single island during Duterte’s time, I will pack my bags, go home and I will not serve the public in any elected or appointed position,” Cayetano said during his department’s flag-raising ceremony.
This was in response to an article published by the Philippine Star on Sunday, May 27, entitled “How many islands does Philippines still have?”
In the article, columnist Federico Pascual Jr. said the “smart answer to the question ‘How many islands comprise the Philippines?’ used to be: ‘Depends on whether it’s low or high tide.’ Not anymore — now the cautious reply is: ‘Before or after Duterte?’”
“Are you willing to face this administration, and show us which island feature or inch, square-inch we lost during Duterte’s time? I’m willing to show you what we lost in the last administration,” Cayetano responded.
China has deployed surface-to-air and cruise missiles, radio jamming equipment and military transport aircraft to its “big three” islands in the Spratly group since the year started.
Cayetano insisted the government is taking diplomatic actions whenever necessary. Although critics have slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s “defeatist” stance on the long-standing maritime dispute, Cayetano assured that the president is ready to defend the Philippines’ sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.
“The president has said that. If anyone gets the natural resources in the West Philippine Sea, he will go to war,” Cayetano said.
This is contrary to what the president had said in the past — that he would not go to a war he could not win, and that he preferred to maintain friendship with China rather than engage the Asian giant in a war over the two countries’ territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.