By Deighton Acuin and Archie Villaflores


Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s “utang na loob” remark, Malacañang said Thursday it does not mean the government will surrender its claims over the West Philippine Sea.

“Hindi po. May hangganan po ang pakikipagkaibigan sa Tsina,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said, when asked during a media briefing if Duterte’s statement gives China an authority to do whatever it wants.

“Iyong pangingisda, puwede. Pero kung mayroong langis [na huhukayin], maninindigan na siya. Walang teritoryong mawawala sa atin habang siya ang Presidente,” Roque added.

Further, Roque said Duterte’s comment does not only express gratitude to China but also to the countries who committed to donating COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines through the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX Facility.

The Philippines has so far received more than 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from China-based Sinovac Biotech, and 525,600 doses from the British drugmaker AstraZeneca through COVAX Facility.

“Tumatanaw rin tayo ng utang na loob sa ibang bansa na nagdonate sa ilalim ng COVAX,” he said.

“Iyong Sinovac lang po naman talaga ang naaasahan natin, although inaasahan natin na magbabago na ito sa mga susunod na buwan,” Roque added.

The Palace official also said that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s sentiments against China is also that of the President since the former is the “alter-ego” of the latter.

It was in 2013 when the Philippines filed an arbitrary case against China over its claims within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In 2016, The Hague Court of Arbitration has rejected the Beijing’s sovereignty claim in the area.

However, China rejected the ruling by saying the territorial issue is “indisputable.”