Newly-appointed Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday asked Filipinos to trust President Rodrigo Duterte's approach in protecting the Philippines' territorial integrity while improving relations with China.
"He has told us many many times that he is committed to protecting our territorial integrity, he will protect every single inch of our territory. But trust him on how he will do it and how he will approach it," Cayetano said in a press conference on his first day as secretary of Foreign Affairs.
The former senator was explaining Duterte's remarks last Friday.
The President was hitting back at criticisms that he had gone soft on the South China Sea issue by refusing to bring up the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, that invalidated China's territorial claims.
Duterte said during the speech that he had insisted in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping the Philippines' sovereign rights over some disputed territories in the South China Sea.
Duterte said Xi responded: "Well we are friends. We do not want to quarrel with you... We want to maintain the present warm relationship. But if you force the issue, we will go to war."
Cayetano said during the press conference that Duterte could have been forced to make the remarks because "he was being barraged by comments of what he should do."
"Of course, every day of more than a week, you have people criticizing and people telling him to do something else, he would have to give some kind of response," he said.
Cayetano said that Duterte's remarks last week was consistent with his previous responses to the South China Sea issue that he "would not want to go to war, not because he is afraid of anyone, but because people would suffer."
Duterte has allowed the Philippines to return to bilateral talks with China in resolving disputes over some territories in the South China Sea. —ALG, GMA News