Senator and former boxing star Manny Pacquiao has hit out at President Rodrigo Duterte for not planting a Filipino flag on disputed islands in the South China Sea as he had promised.
Duterte had previously accused the legendary “PacMan” of having a “shallow” view of events.
Responding on Wednesday, Pacquiao stood by his original statement, accusing Duterte of failing to stand by his election promise on disputed territorial claims.
“I respect the president’s opinion but humbly disagree with his assessment of my understanding of foreign policy. I am a Filipino voicing out what needs to be said in defence of what has been adjudicated as rightfully ours,” he said.
He added that he believed his opinion reflected the sentiment of most Filipinos and that the country should “stand strong in protecting our sovereign rights”.
The former boxing champion had previously accused Duterte of going soft on territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Pacquiao noted that when campaigning in 2016, Duterte said he would take a jet ski to the Spratly Islands and plant a Filipino flag there.
“I felt it in my heart to vote for him because that’s the kind of president that we need; someone who will fight for our country,” he said.
He accepted that Duterte had not followed through on his promises because he was doing his best not to anger Beijing.
This led Duterte to advise Pacquiao to go “study” because of his “shallow” understanding of issues relating to the South China Sea and Manila’s dispute with China over the territory.
The disputed water and the islands within it have overlapping claims from China, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei, among others.
Duterte, who has frequently been accused of being too close to China, will see his presidency come to an end in June 2022 when his six-year term finishes.
Last week, he suggested that his daughter Sara, the incumbent mayor of Davao City, and Pacquiao were among his favourites to succeed him.
National hero Pacquiao is regarded by many boxing historians as one of the greatest professional boxers of all time.
He is the only boxer in history to win 12 major world titles in eight different weight divisions.