By Deighton Acuin

PHOTO: Yancy Lim/Presidential Photos

It is unlikely for Filipinos to consider the West Philippine Sea dispute as one of the topics to be used for choosing the next president in the 2022 national elections, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said.

Interviewed over One News’ “The Chiefs” program, Panelo made the statement after the Malacañang rejected the calls for multilateral approach in addressing the issue.

“Issue ng Pilipino yung sa tiyan niya. Sa tiyan, yung bakuna ngayon, yung maliligtas ang buhay niya. ‘Yung talagang sa lamesa ang pag-uusapan,” he said.

He also claimed that he saw in the survey that corruption, environmental, and human rights are among the most interesting issues in the Philippines.

“Tinignan ko yung West Philippine Sea, two percent lang, eh. Hindi interesado yung mga sinurvey. Kasi kumbaga abstract yun, eh,” he added.

Last May 24, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that the bilateral talks with China have been working under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, adding that no parts of the country’s territory were taken by China during his tenure.

The West Philippine Sea issue rose anew after 200 Chinese militia vessels were spotted in the Julian Felipe Reef which prompted the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file a series of diplomatic protests against China.

While Duterte reiterated that he would not withdraw the country's naval assets in the contested waters, he said that the Philippines will not waste its “best relations” with China.

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