By Argyll Cyrus Geducos, Roy Mabasa, and Hannah Torregoza
President Duterte said that the Philippines and China do not need to go to war over the disputed West Philippine Sea when the two countries can share the resources found in the area.
Duterte made the statement in Cebu over the weekend, following China’s announcement that it has landed strategic bombers on an outpost in the South China Sea.
“China has offered for a joint – someday we will talk about it. Di man ta kinahanglan mag-away. Bahin ta (We don’t have to fight. We can divide this in a), joint development, joint exploration,” Duterte said.
“Unya mas dako ang ihatag namo sa inyo. Kaysa makig-away ko (And then we’ll give you a bigger share rather than fight),” he added.
Duterte reiterated that going to war against China would only result to the deaths of a lot of police and soldiers, especially now with China’s different facilities and infrastructure in the disputed waters.
“Well, you know they have the planes, not stationed in Spratly but near the provinces facing – Chinese provinces facing the Spratly and the China Sea. And with their hypersonic, they can reach Manila within 7 to 10 minutes. Og makig giyera gyud sila’g full blown war, asa man ta puniton (If we will go to a full-blown war, where would Philippines end up in)?” he said.
“Bakit ko ipasubo ang buhay ng mga sundalo ko pati pulis ko (Why would I give away the lives of my soldiers and policemen) in a battle which I cannot win? Dili kong buang na ipasubo nako na akong mga sundalo ko. (I’m not crazy enough to let my soldiers die). And besides, China has always been conciliatory,” he added.
Duterte recalled how Chinese President Xi Jinping warned him about digging oil in the disputed waters, noting the newly founded friendship between the Philippines and China.
“So mao na. Mudaog ba ta? Kay og i-massacre lang ta, pagkahuman sa gyera ang sunod na ihawon sa military ug pulis ako na. I-commit nako. Hurot man gyud na (So will we be able to win that war? If my troops will be massacred, after the war, the soldiers and police will come after me next. Our troops will really be finished off there),” he said.
The President also said that the Philippines does not even have enough resources to wage a war against the Asian giant.
“Alam mo, ‘pag pinilit mo, there will be trouble. Unsa may atong itrubo, magsinagpaay ta diha? (You know, if we push it, there will be trouble. What will we arm ourselves with if there’s a war? Will we resort to slapping each other)?” Duterte said.
Baw-an nimo, sa kagamay nato, wa tay – wa man gani koy rifles ngadto, mupalit ko – gihatag. Unya makig gyera na hinuon ta sa Intsik (You know, based on how few we are – I couldn’t even buy myself a rifle. It was given to me. So how will we even fight with the Chinese)?” he added.
Duterte said that it was China that offered assistance to the Philippines and not America.
“Daghan nang nisulod mga projects. Kani, wala ning China, hain man ang Americano diri gasuroy-suroy aning y*** ning giyera ni? O diba ang kugihan ang Intsik ra gyud? O tan-awa. Ngano tagbo-tagbo man ta karon? Tagam (But a lot of projects have already started to come in. If China wasn’t – where would the Americans be if a war did break out? The Chinese are really industrious. Just look. Why are we all colliding now)?” Duterte said.
“Ang America ra may naguol nga nawad-an sila’g teritoryo. P**** kamo’y ga una eh (And then we’ll give you a bigger share rather than fight. It’s only America who’s worried because they lost a territory). I was just new then you adopted the rascal’s propaganda,” he added.
Diplomacy eases tension
Meanwhile in Hawaii, senior Philippine official told the United States that the “deliberate and nuanced diplomacy” espoused by the Duterte Administration on the South China Sea issue had helped ease tensions, resulted in economic gains and opened the potential to explore oil and gas in the area.
This was the position conveyed by a delegation of senior Philippine officials during their high-level discussions with outgoing United States Pacific Command (PACOM) chief Admiral Harry Harris, Jr. in Hawaii on Saturday (yesterday morning in Manila).
“On the South China Sea, the Philippine Delegation underscored that the deliberate and nuanced diplomacy by the Duterte Administration had lowered tensions in the region and resulted in clear economic gains for the Philippines in terms of access to marine resources, protection of the marine ecology, and the potential to explore oil and gas resources,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement.
It said that the high-level delegation led by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea had productive discussions on critical regional and international issues with Harris and the commanders of all PACOM service components.
Also in the meeting, officials from the two countries have reaffirmed their firm resolve to bolster their enduring alliance anchored on common values and interest, historic ties and the Mutual Defense Treaty.
“The Philippine Delegation had a very substantive exchange with Admiral Harris on regional challenges and both sides agreed that the alliance remains consequential to the preservation of regional stability and development,” the foreign affairs office said.
Aside from Medialdea, also in the delegation were Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior and Local Government OIC-Secretary Eduardo M. Año, Foreign Affairs chief Alan Peter Cayetano, Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez, and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Teodoro Locsin Jr.
Gratitude to US
While Harris congratulated the Philippines on its decisive victory in the Marawi siege, the Philippine Delegation expressed its gratitude for Washington’s “strong support” which it said was instrumental in the successful campaign against the militants.
The DFA said both sides agreed on the need to work more closely together, including in the exchange of information, in the fight against terrorism and in countering violent extremism.
Harris has led the PACOM since May 2015 and has actively worked to strengthen Philippine-US security relations including through his role as the co-chair of the
Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board.
The PACOM commander visited the Philippines in August last year and met with President Duterte at Malacañang where they discussed U.S. support to the Philippine government’s efforts to end the Marawi conflict, interoperability between the Philippines-U.S. two militaries, and other regional threats.
However, two opposition senators urged the President yesterday to raise the issue of China’s continuing militarization in the West Philippine Sea before the United Nations General Assembly to bolster the Philippines’ sovereignty over the islands.
Senators Franklin Drilon and Risa Hontiveros both condemned the latest landing of the H-6k bomber on Woody Island in the Paracel group in the Spratlys, as well as China’s missile deployment and building up of military assets in the disputed sea.
“I condemn the continuous violation of the arbitration award of the international tribunal; the very aggressive stance. You know, we should be very careful here. We are asserting our sovereignty …but lately, China is there and you can already say they are occupying part of Philippine territory,” Drilon said in an interview over Radio DZBB.
Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, likewise, joined the opposition lawmakers’ call and urged the Duterte government to file a protest against China’s militarization on the West Philippine Sea, saying this is not consistent with their “friendly approach” to the Philippine government.
“I’ve been an ally of the President from the very start, but I am not in favor of what is being done to our territories. If China is truly a real friend as they claim to be, they should stop taking over territories that are ours,” Ejercito said, also in a separate Radio DZBB interview
‘Campaign vs China’
“If we do not campaign against China, then we could expect them to meddle in our elections. The question at the back of peoples’ minds now would be, will China now interfere with how we choose our leaders? So we should protect our sovereignty. Let us continue in asserting our sovereign rights,” the Senate minority leader added.
“A review of our bilateral relationship with China is in order. We can’t call a country that robs us of our islands and threatens us with nuclear war a friend,” Hontiveros, on the other hand, said in a statement.
“By placing our country within striking distance of its nuclear-capable bombers, China has virtually threatened us with nuclear war over the West Philippine Sea. This is unacceptable,” she further said.
“This is a serious threat to the lives of our citizens, an assault on our Constitution and a direct violation of internationally-recognized treaties to which we are a signatory,” added Hontiveros.
And with a looming leadership change in the Senate, Drilon and Ejercito said they hope that the new Senate President, reportedly with Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III at the helm, would take a firm stand on the China issue as “a foreign policy partner of the President.”
“This is a challenge to the new leadership: we must assert the Senate’s role in foreign relations,” Drilon said.
“We should assert our sovereignty, not by waging a war against China – we cannot do that – but in other fora, we should be able to continue our campaign in order that we can retrieve those islands that have been occupied by China,” the minority chief added.
“This is a challenge to the new leadership: we must assert the Senate’s role in foreign relations. We must condemn this creeping invasion of our territory and sovereignty. Sa akin po, importante ito, (To me, this is very important),” he said.