THE Chinese government expressed strong support for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, following a Manila Times report of an alleged plot by former US ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg to kick him out of Malacañang.
In a news conference in Beijing on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China was confident on Duterte’s leadership and would continue to support his policies.
“As a friendly neighbor to the Philippines, China supports President Duterte’s policies and stands ready to help the Philippines speed up development by deepening bilateral cooperation of mutual benefit,” the official was quoted as saying in an official transcript released by the ministry.
“We believe that President Duterte will lead the Philippines to achieve greater development and prosperity.”
Citing a document it had received from highly placed source, The Manila Times on Tuesday reported that before ending his stint in Manila, Goldberg had prepared a “blueprint” for the ultimate removal for Duterte.
The plan calls on the US government to employ a combination of “socio-economic-political-diplomatic moves” against Duterte “to bring him to his knees and eventually remove him from office.”
Duterte on Thursday warned those behind the supposed plot to brace for a bloody fight.
“Those talks of ousting me…probably I’ll give you a good fight, you’ll get a bloody nose,” Duterte said in the first of four media interviews Thursday, aired over CNN Philippines.
In a statement to The Manila Times, however, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel described the report as “false,” stressing that the US respects the sovereignty of the Philippines. “No such blueprint exists,” he said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday cast doubt on the report, saying he did not even ask military intelligence to look into it.
“Hindi totoo` yun, hindi ako naniniwala dun [That’s not true. I don’t believe that]. The US will not do that,” Lorenzana told reporters during the Rizal Day celebration at Rizal Park in Manila.
He said he did not bother the intelligence community about the report because its job was “to protect the integrity of the republic.”
Lorenzana said he had yet to talk to the President but relayed his views to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
“Let us not dignify this rumor, sabi niya [he said],” Lorenzana said, quoting Medialdea.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Tuesday called for a congressional investigation into the alleged “blueprint,” describing the supposed ouster plot “anathema” to democracy and a “subversion” of the people’s will.
‘Duterte has popular support’
In Beijing, Hua pointed out that Duterte enjoys support of the Filipino people.
“Mr. Duterte was elected the 16th president of the Philippines in last May’s general election. Since taking office, President Duterte has won great support and respect from the Philippine people by launching social reforms, developing the economy, tackling crimes and improving people’s livelihood, as what he does is in the interests of the country and the people,” she said.
In a television interview on Thursday, Duterte said he was optimistic on the Philippine economy with the backing of China.
“I’m upbeat on our economy because China is coming in,” he said. “Before, we are limited because when was the last time China paid attention on us? It was [not]until my last trip to China to talk to them.”
Duterte made a historic state visit in Beijing last October, bringing home $15 billion worth of investments and $9 billion in financing agreements with the Asian economic power.
Just recently, the Board of Investments said at least 40 investors from China were looking at exploring investment opportunities in Mindanao.
The Chinese firms include Foxconn IPC Group which is part of global electronics giant Foxconn Technology, CAS Engineering & Development Corp., CHINT Electric Group and Shenda Electric.
West PH Sea dispute
Despite the improving ties between Manila and Beijing, Duterte promised that the time would come within his six-year term when he would tackle the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute with Chinese officials.
He added that he would also confront China if it siphoned off minerals from the disputed waters, also partly claimed by Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei.
“When you begin to extract the oil, you begin to extract the mineral there, what about me? You are the owner, I’m also the owner so what’s going to happen to us?” Duterte said.
A July 12 ruling by The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration junked China’s excessive claims over almost the whole of South China Sea through the “nine-dash” demarcation line—a major victory that the President is willing to set aside in the meantime to improve relations with Beijing.
“I told the Chinese [leaders]when I was there, there will be time during my term when we will have to talk about the arbitral [award],” he said. “I will make a noise certainly because I claim to be the owner. But this is not the time.”