MANILA — “When I can talk to them, why should I fight? China is willing to talk.”
President Rodrigo R. Duterte made this remark noting that the best approach to addressing the territorial conflict with China on the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) is through “diplomatic” means.
“Well, we can only be diplomatic. We can only be talking on friendly and civilized terms,” Duterte said Monday night during the founding anniversary of the Chinese Filipino Business Club at the Manila Hotel.
Duterte said that it was also “unrealistic” to fight China because he would not allow any of his uniformed men to die unnecessarily.
“We cannot go there, ride in our whatever, Navy, the gray ships, the Coast Guard and start waving our rifles. We cannot do that today. It is unrealistic. It cannot be true,” Duterte said.
“I will not commit the lives of the Filipinos only to die unnecessarily. I will not go into a battle which I can never win,” he added.
He acknowledged that China was indeed building structures and military bases but noted that these were not intended to be used against the Philippines but her opponents such as the United States.
“Now, nandiyan ang China (is there) building structures and military bases, I must admit it. But is it intended for us? You must be joking. It’s not intended for us,” Duterte said.
“It’s really intended against those who the Chinese think would destroy them, and that is America,” he added.
Duterte, meanwhile, assured that he will still insist that China cannot claim the Philippine Rise (formerly Benham Rise).
“Benham or the Philippine Rise and I would insist on the Philippine Rise because that is ours, period. We allowed expeditions, undersea expeditions,” Duterte said.
He, however, said that there are ongoing negotiations on joint explorations between the two countries.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque has maintained that the government will continue to protect national interest by being consistent in its obligation under the United Nations (UN) charter.
“We will not resort to the use of force, we will not allow our territory to be used in a manner inconsistent with international law,” Roque said in a Palace briefing on Tuesday.
He also reiterated that Chinese reclamation began during the administration of former President Benigno S. Aquino III and that the best option available was to prevent further reclamation.
“I’d like to underscore the fact that when the President came into power, they are already reclaimed. They were really going to be used for military purposes already. Stop looking at us,” Roque said.
“We’re trying to make do with the best options we have and right now it’s to acknowledge the fact that under the past admin, this islands were reclaimed and intended to be used for whatever purpose they’re being used now. They way forward is the President has repeatedly said is to prevent China from making further reclamation because they could very well do it if they want,” he added. PNA-northboundasia.com