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Duterte says Roque is spokesman on West Philippine Sea, tells other Cabinet men quit discussing dispute


Refrain from talking about the West Philippine Sea issue with anybody.

This was President Rodrigo Duterte's directive to his Cabinet after discussing the territorial dispute between China and the Philippines with former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

"If we have to talk we talk and tayo-tayo lang and there is one spokesman. Si Secretary (Harry) Roque," Duterte said.

On May 11, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. emphasized that international diplomacy should be left exclusively to his department.

"This is my last warning. When it comes to foreign affairs the Department of Foreign Affairs has the exclusive remit," Locsin said.

"I don’t come from diplomacy; I come from a life that settled the hash of a lotta people who talked tough and ended up biting dirt. I don’t talk, I deal."

Locsin's irritation followed Sec. Roque's claim that the Julian Felipe Reef was too far away to be considered within the Philippines' EEZ.

"Hindi po yan kabahagi ng ating EEZ, yung Julian Felipe. Labas po yan, ganyan po kalayo yan," said Roque.

Meanwhile, also during Monday's Talk to the Nation briefing, Enrile suggested that the Philippines must continue dealing with China on the West Philippine Sea.

"If I may suggest we get what we can get from China on the West Philippine Sea, use it to strengthen military capability," he said.

Later on, Duterte stressed that the Benham Rise was within the Philippines' jurisdiction, adding that he will not allow exploitation of resources there.

"Benham Rise is exclusively Philippine property. I will not allow any intrusion there. But to allow anybody to try to exploit it, I will not allow them to do that," Duterte said.

Enrile was invited to this week's Talk to the Nation to shed light on why President's critics -- Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario-- allegedly allowed the Philippines to lose its possession over Scarborough Shoal.

Duterte previously blamed Carpio and del Rosario for pulling out Philippine vessels from the Scarborough Shoal.

Former Foreign Secretary del Rosario, however, countered that it was China who did not follow the United States-brokered agreement to withdraw vessels in the disputed island. — DVM, GMA News

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