KEY POINTS

  • The president snapped back at Pacquiao calling his views "shallow."
  • Pacquiao reiterated his stance, saying his sentiments were that of Filipinos. 
  • Pacquiao is rumored to be gunning for the 2022 presidential elections.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's stance on the disputed waters of the South China Sea found a critic in ally Manny Pacquiao, who Monday said the leader's stand on the South China Sea was "lacking." 

Duterte, however, did not take well to the slight, hitting back at Pacquiao the very next day for his "shallow" understanding of the issues. The premier did not mince words when he urged the boxer-turned-senator to "study first" on foreign policy. "Apparently, this guy has a very shallow knowledge," Duterte was quoted by Manila-based news outlet Inquirer. 

Though popular in the Philippines, Duterte has always been criticized for his dovish stance on increased Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. He had opted for a friendlier relationship with Beijing in exchange for billions of dollars promised to Manila.

However, a larger section of Filipinos is not exactly thrilled about Duterte's foreign policy, say reports.  Many believe Duterte is undermining the national interest of the Philippines, a sentiment that echoed in Pacquiao's words Monday.

"I find it lacking compared to how he was before he ran for President. He should have continued that so that we get some respect," Pacquiao, an administration ally of Duterte and president of the ruling PDP–Laban party, had said. 

Duterte chiding him didn't deter Pacquiao, who doubled down on his criticism. "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 defense of what has been adjudicated as rightfully ours,” he said Wednesday. 

Pacquiao, who is rumored to be considering running for the presidency in 2022, added he "regrets that the President was misinformed regarding my statement on the West Philippine Sea issue." 

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

A loyal ally to Duterte since he assumed office in 2016, Pacquiao had publicly backed the president during martial law declaration and drug war, calling him a strong leader. 

However, his recent stance stoked tensions within the party when he urged members to ignore a meeting called by a rival, who backed Duterte's succession plans.

Manny Pacquiao Boxer and senator Manny Pacquiao Photo: Getty