NEW YORK — For the first time, Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez met with the Fil-Am community in the Northeast.
The annual Fil-Am General Assembly on Saturday was attended by community leaders from the ten states covered by the Philippine Consulate in New York.
Their biggest question of the night was when will the Philippine president set foot in the US?
“For as long as they treat us a sovereign nation… you can tell us things, advise us, but do not tell us what to do — that is what he wants,” said Romualdez. “I think President Trump understands that very clearly so they have a good relationship, so Trump invited him again to come to the United States.”
ABS-CBN news is still waiting to hear back from the White House on details of Trump’s most recent invitation to Duterte.
Meanwhile when it comes to the territorial dispute and sovereignty issue in the West Philippine Sea and Benham Rise, Romualdez says the Philippines will not touch this matter until Duterte’s third year in office.
President Duterte says we are not giving it up, we are merely changing our tactic.
“We don’t have the wherewithal to stop this, obviously we don’t have the military muscle that US had, and that’s why President Duterte has said that he had hoped the United States would have played a major role at that time when they were building all these things.”
But contrary to critics’ concerns about threats to maritime sovereignty, Duterte has allowed China to conduct “scientific research” off the Benham Rise – declared by the UN as part of the continental shelf of the Philippines in 2012.
But the question is, if the Philippines has no power to remove Chinese presence in the west Philippine sea, what guarantee does the Duterte administration have — that this Chinese scientific team will leave Benham Rise after their so-called scientific research?
“Sovereignty to me is paramount, walang halaga ang buhay mo kung wala kang dignidad, in my mind we should study this position, and make it clear ano ba talaga ang involved dito,” said Jimmy Dizon.
While China has no territorial claims to Benham Rise – the presence of Chinese vessels in the area has been a concern to Duterte critics.
The permission granting China scientific activities in the area was only revealed to the public after Philippine spokesperson Harry Roque was asked about it, and he replied that anyone opposed to the joint research project should raise the issue to the Philippine Congress.