DAVAO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte has no plans to raise the issues relating to the Philippines’ claim to the West Philippine Sea at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Laos PDR (People’s Democratic Republic) next week.
The President repeated his earlier pronouncement during the inauguration of the Php 5-billion expanded Davao International Container Terminal in Panabo City, Davao del Norte on Friday afternoon.
“I do not intend to raise the issue before the ASEAN, because if I do, there’s going to be a convoluted thing there,” said Mr. Duterte, emphasizing that he does not want any clutter at the Summit. He stressed that the West Philippine Sea issue is just between the Philippines and China.
The President, however, assured he would discuss the Arbitral ruling with China when he faces his Chinese counterpart in a bilateral talk. “I said there will, there’ll be time when I will say that: This is the arbitral ruling and if you want to talk to me, this will be my platform and we do not go out of the four corners of this document, whether you like or not I proceed and my predicate for my willingness to talk to you would be the arbitration judgment in our favor,” he said.
The President pointed out his position does not indicate fear of China. “It has nothing to do with being afraid. We do not have to be afraid of anybody. We can, maybe, fight, maybe can lose a battle, but if it’s a war… Well, I don’t know how many nations will get into it,” he added.
The China sea, Mr. Duterte said, could be a potential flashpoint although there is no current threat arising from several claims of neighboring countries.
The President, however, allays fears of war, saying, “We are all for peace. I do not want to ignite anything there. I’ve been holding my tongue, and as my nature probably, you know by now, I’m the guy that would just blurt out anything that enters my mind.
“For as long as China would just remain its posturing now and does not in anyway continue to build structures that would prevent or obstruct maritime journeys there, okay lang (that’s fine),” he said.
The problem could start again if China continues to build up, citing an intelligence report the President received on Thursday night about new barges coming in, raising suspicion of another construction somewhere.
As of now, Mr. Duterte said, no one knows of the real intentions of China. He said if it continues building military installations there, everything will go up.
“Then trade in this part of that alley there, that corridor, would go up. And insurance would go up, for the ship and the goods that they transport, because then it would be a source of conflict and thereby the threat is always there,” he said.
But being the President, Duterte said, he carries the burden and will take care solely of the foreign affairs of this country. “I should be wary of my behavior and gesture, and even in the official and personal capacity,” he said.
“Yan lang ho ang makita ko dito na (That’s what I see for now…) Everything is all right. You see ships beyond the boundaries of our international waters. But sometimes, there are things that would just crop up. It has never been raised before as assiduous as this. But now, if you ask them, China would just say that: We will not honor it. ‘Wag natin bang-banggain muna (Let’s not clash for now) because there are no formal talks,” the President said.
“I’ll just proceed with the right drift that we do not want any quarrel, that we do not want any, at all at this time. Except that we want to trade, commerce with everybody. We have plenty to sell, plenty to ship. I hope that it would not be the time where we have to make crucial decisions in our national life,” Mr. Duterte said. Lilian Mellejor/PNA/northboundasia.com