President Rodrigo Duterte has pointed to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as the reason why he can’t take a hardline stance on China’s aggression in the South China Sea.
In a speech during the Araw ng Pasasalamat for OFWs Friday (July 12), Duterte said he has to think of the estimated 400,000 OFWs working in China when it comes to dealing with the Asian superpower.
“Itong mga politikong iba, gusto awayin ko. You know, ako okay lang. Palaaway man ako. Pero you know, I have to think of Filipinos everywhere,” he said.
“In every country na may Pilipino, talagang pigil ako. Mainit — mainitin ang ulo ko pero ‘pag magdating diyan, kalma lang ako because there are so many Filipinos going abroad,” Duterte added.
The President has been criticized for refusing to bring up the country’s win in an international arbitral court regarding China’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea.
Duterte has repeatedly said there will come a time that he will bring up the arbitral ruling with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but he has yet to say when it will happen.