By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippines neither can stop China from its planned construction in the Panatag Shoal nor will declare war with the powerful Asian neighbor since it would only result to local casualties, President Duterte said on Sunday (March 19).
“We cannot stop China from doing his thing. Hindi nga napara ng Amerikano,” the President said in a press conference in Davao City before leaving for Myanmar and Thailand.
“Ano bang gawin ko? Declare war against China? I can but we’ll all lose all our military and policemen tomorrow, and we are a destroyed nation,” he added.
The President was reacting to reports that China is preparing to build an environmental monitoring station at Pantag Shoal located within Philippine territory. The monitoring station will reportedly form part of China’s island restoration and erosion prevention efforts slated this year.
As the country moves to strengthen economic ties with China, the President explained that he would “not invoke” the arbitral judgment upholding the country’s maritime entitlements in the South China Sea at this time.
“We cannot assert even a single sentence of any provision that we signed,” he said.
But Duterte recalled that he told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he would eventually raise the arbitral ruling in their discussion within his term.
“There will be a time in my term when I will bring the issue back on the table on the four square of the arbitral ruling and it will come,” he said. “When? When they shall start to tinker with entitlements. Tubig pa lang ngayon eh,” he added.
The President also found nothing wrong with his invitation to China to send its ships to visit the Philippines, saying it was the same invitation extended to another ally Russia.
Duterte said he considers China as a friend of the Philippines and will not discriminate against their ships exercising right to innocent passage.
“Your ship are welcome, just like Russia, to come here and dock. And let me see your armaments there — and Russia, sinabi ko rin ang China,” he said.
Duterte, however, reminded China not to harass the country’s coast guard protecting territorial waters during their passage in local waters.
“Do not do anything to my coast guard kung mamasyal-masyal rin sila diyan. Kasi you claim to own it, I claim it to be mine. In the meantime, just keep open at ‘wag mong galawin ‘yung mga coast guard ko,” he said.
Recently, the President announced he permitted Chinese research ships to sail through the Philippine-owned Benham Rise as part of an agreement. He said no incursion happened since he was informed ahead of the passage of the Chinese ships.