Palace defends Duterte on keeping Palawan free of foreign arms stockpile

November 14, 2018
Rodrigo R. Duterte
Rodrigo R. Duterte

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s recent decision not to allow any country to stockpile arms and ammunition in the island-province of Palawan reflects his “acumen and diplomacy” in dealing with the West Philippine Sea dispute, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the remark after international political risk analyst Anders Corr said Duterte’s recent pronouncement will leave the island militarily vulnerable to the advantage of China.

“The President’s recent decision not to allow any country to stockpile arms and ammunition in Palawan reflects his acumen and diplomacy in dealing with the issue,” Panelo said in a statement.

“The President not only steers clear of a potential warfare with China but anticipates any armed conflict between two powerful countries,” he added.

Panelo insisted that given its proximity to China, Palawan “could be a flaming collateral damage if not an object of a strategic assault” when tension in the disputed areas resulted in an armed conflict.

“It is in the best interest of the nation that the President maintains constructive dialogues with China through a bilateral consultation mechanism (BCM),” he said.

Corr also claimed that Duterte’s possible invitation of Chinese electricity producers to Palawan to address power outages there favors China’s West Philippine Sea claim.

Panelo however said China’s possible entry “is merely a business matter owing to their technical knowhow on power outages,” adding that all projects, whether proposed by domestic or foreign entities, shall undergo strict legal processes before any approval is given by the government.

In a speech in Palawan on Saturday, Duterte said he will not allow any country to store up arms on the island, claiming that the country is not ready for an armed confrontation.

“Palawan is critical, very critical. Kaya — kasi ‘pag nagputukan ‘yang China Sea na ‘yan, ang lahat ng bala na-misfire pupunta dito. Totoo,” Duterte said.

“[Palawan] Island is very critical and I think as a matter of foreign policy, I will not allow any country to stockpile any kind of weapon dito sa inyo,” he added.

The President also said that he may allow Chinese electricity producing firms to solve the power problem of Palawan should the existing energy cooperative failed to fix the outages by year-end.