Pacquiao defends self after Duterte's remarks: I'm a Filipino voicing out what needs to be said

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 9)— Senator Manny Pacquiao on Wednesday defended himself following President Rodrigo Duterte's scathing remarks against his knowledge on foreign policy, saying his previous statement on maritime issues "reflects the sentiment of majority of the Filipinos."

In a television interview with Pastor Apollo Quiboloy on Tuesday, Duterte chided Pacquiao for criticizing his stance on the West Philippine Sea, even advising the boxer-turned-politician to "study diligently."

But Pacquiao responded he was just "voicing out what needs to be said."

"I respect the President's opinion but humbly disagree with his assessment of my understanding of foreign policy," Pacquiao — president of the ruling PDP-Laban party — said in a statement. "I am a Filipino voicing out what needs to be said in defense of what has been adjudicated as rightfully ours."

"I firmly believe that my statement reflects the sentiment of majority of the Filipinos, that we should stand strong in protecting our sovereign rights while pursuing a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the dispute," the senator added.

Pacquiao had criticized Duterte's stance on the maritime dispute with the East Asian giant as lacking. He said Duterte should be giving strong responses now, just as he did during the 2016 presidential campaign, when he said he would ride a jet ski and plant the Philippine flag in the West Philippine Sea to assert the country's sovereign rights.

Duterte, who has nurtured close ties with China, earlier said the country owes Beijing a "huge debt," including for the supply of vaccines. However, he maintained he cannot compromise on matters related to the West Philippine Sea.