Opposition lawmakers from the House of Representatives on Tuesday slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for joking that the Philippines should be a province of China.
In a statement, Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano said Duterte's statement was "absolutely unacceptable."
"Such irresponsible banter is a slap in the face of the many Filipinos, including our soldiers stationed in our occupied islands, who work tirelessly to defend our territorial integrity from China," he said.
"This only shows how indifferent and apathetic Duterte is to China’s bastardization of our sovereignty," he added.
In a speech before Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua and several Filipino-Chinese businessmen on Monday, Duterte joked that China should make the Philippines one of its provinces.
"Gusto ninyo gawain niyo na lang kaming province, Fujian, Philippine province of China. Eh di wala tayong problema. Libre na lahat," he said.
"Province of the Philippines, Republic of China. The nearest is Fujian. Hayaan mo na lang ‘yung Taipei. Huwag na nating galawin ‘yan. Pagkaliit liit. Hayaan mo na. Let it float there. Makuha mo ang Philippines, wala nang problema," he added.
Alejano said he is alarmed that Duterte's joke is "quite close to the truth."
"This administration claims that it has remained steadfast in protecting the country’s territorial claims. Its inactions however, dictate otherwise," he said.
"The rapid militarization of the West Philippine Sea, lack of formal and transparent protests by our government, the reported Chinese-Philippine resource ventures—all of these point to a passive and subservient strategy by the administration," he added.
For his part, Akbayan party-list Representative Tom Villarin said it has becoming a habit for Duterte to always defer to China's wishes, and that such jokes shows his "wilful subservience."
"With him as President, we will become inutile to assert our rights even through diplomacy and will be sold to China for a pittance," he said.
"The joke is on us if we don’t call him out for such irresponsible statements," he added.
Anakpawis party-list Representative Ariel Casilao, meanwhile, said Duterte's joke is no laughing matter.
“Even it is a joke, it is a clear manifestation of the defeatist stand of the Duterte government against the continuing aggressive behavior of China in the South China Sea," he said.
"He only acts tough against opposition, critics and poor Filipinos but with China, he had the audacity to even gone too far to make the Philippines a province of China. That is very unpatriotic," he added.
Casilao urged the public to speak up and not let Duterte get away with his "reckless statement."
"We should remain steadfast asserting our sovereign rights not only against China but also other superpowers that goes in and out in our territory through various forms of protest and parliamentary initiatives," he said. — BM, GMA News