MANILA — Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Tuesday said President Rodrigo Duterte’s quip about the Philippines becoming a province of China should just be attributed to the Chief Executive’s penchant for cracking jokes.
In an ambush interview, the Senate leader said that he already heard the joke before and since the President saw that it was a hit among his audience, he decided to crack it again.
“Narinig ko na yun (I already heard it) two months ago, sa isang personal na gathering namin (in our personal gathering). So siguro nakita niya na bumenta ‘yung joke (maybe he saw that the joke drew a lot of laughs), siguro nung first na crinack niya, kaya crinack niya ulit (he cracked it for the second time),” Pimentel said.
He added that the public is already aware of President Duterte’s penchant for cracking jokes anyway, so people must just let it be.
What is important, he said, is that the administration does not embark on any action that would encourage China to annex the Philippines.
“Well, our President loves to crack jokes. Pabayaan na po natin yun (Let us leave it at that.) Ang importante (What is important) is we be vigilant to make sure that no steps are being taken to make us a province of China,” Pimentel said.
Duterte’s Philippines as China province joke was made Monday during the 20th founding anniversary celebration of the Chinese Filipino Business Club Inc. held in Manila Hotel during a light moment in his speech.
“Gusto ninyo gawin na lang ninyo kaming (If you want, make us your) province, Fujian pati (including) Philippines, province of China, eh ‘di wala tayong problema. Libre na lahat (So we don’t have any problems. Everything is free),” Duterte said in front of Chinese-Filipino businessmen.
Among the noted guests in the gathering was Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua.
But in the same speech, President Duterte repeatedly asserted that the Philippines is undoubtedly the owner of the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea that is also claimed by China.
“Itong claim sa (South) China Sea, talagang atin ‘yan, (This claim in the South China Sea, that is absolutely ours) insofar as the Republic of the Philippines is concerned. I am ready, almost ready, to put my presidency, my career as President, my life and honor. Akin ‘yan (That is mine). I’ve stated it in black and blue,” he said.
“In front of the Ambassador, I’d tell you, we will insist. But what would be the components of our demands and our insistence? Well, we can only be diplomatic. We can only be talking on friendly and civilized terms,” Duterte said.
The President said he would also insist on the Philippine Rise “because that is ours, period.”
He said that the continental shelf below it is Philippine jurisdiction, and that he would not allow any foreign expedition there anymore without the express approval of the military.
It was only during the tail-end of his speech when Duterte cracked the joke. PNA-northboundasia.com