Panelo refuses to comment on foreign affairs' issues, including China, says up to DFA to respond
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo refused on Tuesday to issue statements relating to foreign affairs' issues, including on the South China Sea.
Instead, he said the Department of Foreign Affairs would make the comments.
Panelo's being mum about matters relating to foreign affairs apparently came after DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., in a recent post on his Twitter, said he has the "last and only word" on foreign affairs after President Rodrigo Duterte.
He made the tweet on May 16 after Panelo, in one press briefing, said that failure by Canada to immediately take back its garbage from the Philippines could "sever" ties between the two countries.
“After the President and then me, no one has the authority to sever anything but his own throat. Certainly not diplomatic relations. Can we all keep silent?" Locsin had said.
Panelo, however, in the press briefing, reiterated that he did not feel alluded to by Locsin.
Asked about the recent developments in the South China Sea regarding China's imposition of a fishing ban, including the West Philippine Sea, which is being claimed by the Philippines, Panelo said, "I’ll leave that to the Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary."
But he reiterated the government's policy, which is to "assert its sovereignty over the areas claimed to be its own. So, it will always pursue that line."
On the reported spotting of Chinese ships harvesting giant clams near the Philippine-claimed Panatag Shoal, Panelo said, "I suppose the Western Command should make a validation of that and then refer it to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs for whatever action the Department may take on that issue."
He also said it would be up to the DFA if a diplomatic protest would be filed to China.
Panelo, also the chief presidential legal counsel, said his refusal to answer issues relating to foreign affairs was part of, "you know, we call that courtesy to the department heads." Celerina Monte/DMS