MANILA- The Philippines can never be a "slave" of any country, Malacañang asserted Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the remark when asked if Manila is a "slave" of Beijing.
"We can never be slaves to anyone," he told reporters during a Palace press briefing, insisting that Philippine sovereignty is "never a subject of negotiation."
"We always say that we will not allow any assault on our sovereignty – that’s the policy. That is unchanged," he said.
Panelo's remarks come after Filipino fishing boat owner Felix Dela Torre lamented Manila's seeming lack of rights over its own territory.
“Parang alipin po tayo ng China. Parang wala tayong karapatan sa sarili nating nasasakupan,” he said.
(We're like slaves of China. It's like we have no rights over our territory.)
Dela Torre owned the FB GEM-VER boat which was rammed by a Chinese ship last June 9 even while it was anchored at the Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea.
Twenty-two Filipino fishermen were left at sea by the Chinese crew after sinking the FB GEM-VER boat, only to be rescued by Vietnamese fishermen.
Beijing, through its embassy in Manila, meanwhile denied that its men abandoned the Filipino fishermen, saying the captain of the Chinese ship tried to save them but was "afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats."
Panelo said the Philippine government would wait for the results of its own investigation as well as that of China's before making any decision.
"We are waiting for the final results of the investigation being conducted by the Chinese government, and that applies to us also; because also—we are also conducting our own investigations. Eh ang problema, maraming ‘hot’ – hindi magkapaghintay. Hintayin na lang natin iyong—that’s why the President is not saying anything kasi he wants, as a lawyer, abogado ito eh. Kaming mga abogado, we wait for the facts to come in – all the facts," he said.
(The problem is that many of you are too hot and cannot wait. Let's just wait, that's why the President is not saying anything because as a lawyer...We lawyers wait for the facts to come in- all the facts.)
The Philippines has long been involved in a maritime dispute with China, which continues to ignore a United Nations-backed arbitral ruling invalidating its sweeping claims into the South China Sea.
Despite a long history of maritime dispute with China, Duterte has continued to seek closer ties with Asia's largest economy.