By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte has confirmed that the arbitral ruling that nullified China’s claims in the disputed South China Sea will be raised when he visits Beijing later this month.
“‘Yung arbitral ruling pag-usapan natin ‘yan. That’s why I’m going to China. I’m not going to tell you the agenda. I’m going to China to talk. Did I not tell you before that before my term ends, we will be talking about China Sea? Sinabi ko sa inyo ‘yan,” he said during a gathering of Filipino-Chinese business leaders in Malacañang last Tuesday.
“I’m going there because there are now some ano, ‘yung mga sparkles na which need to be addressed immediately. Ayaw ko ng away,” he added, but made it clear he does not want to pick a fight with the Asian neighbor.
The President is expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on bilateral concerns and issues during his visit, his fifth since he assumed the presidency in 2016.
No to missiles
While he confirmed raising the arbitral ruling, President Duterte said he would never allow the United States to install missile systems in the country.
The President said that while he recognizes the country’s Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States, he would reject the entry of foreign weapons, including nuclear arsenal in the country since this is considered a violation of the Constitution.
“There’s an item in the newspaper that they are going to place some ballistic mid-range (missiles). That can never happen,” Duterte said before a gathering of Filipino-Chinese business leaders in Malacañang.
“That will never happen because I will not allow [it] because it’s also a violation of the Constitution. You cannot place nuclear arms in the Philippines,” he added.
The United States reportedly wants to deploy new intermediate-range missiles in Asia supposedly to counter the rise of China in the region.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he wanted to deploy such capability “sooner rather than later” but did not specify where the US will deploy these weapons.
Apart from preventing the entry of foreign weapons, the President also said he would not allow “foreign troops, not only the Americas, in my land.”
“No troops will be stationed in Pag-asa Island,” he said, insisting he does not want the Philippines to be caught in the middle of the conflict between the United States and China.
School in honor of presidential mother
Meanwhile, during his visit to China later this month, President Duterte also intends to watch the FIBA Word Cup, and inaugurate a school building built in honor of his late mother.
The President said he would inaugurate a building built in honor of his late mother Soledad, a public school teacher. He noted that the school building will be used for foreign students invited to study in China.
“I’m proceeding to Fujian because they – sa University Fujian they built a building in honor of my mother,” he said.
“Teacher man nila ang nanay ko 1951. When that was – that school was organized, one of the few pioneering teachers nanay ko. Kaya may building siya doon, Soledad, for ‘yung mga foreign students na niyayaya nila to study in China. So I’m going there to inaugurate that,” he said.
While on a visit to China, Duterte said he would also watch the FIBA basketball cup, and will be accompanied by China’s Vice President.
“Samahan ako ng vice president mismo ng China doon sa basketball. Biro mo? Totoo ‘yan. It’s a break in protocol,” he said.
Duterte, however, conceded the Philippine basketball team’s poor chances when it faces Italy at the FIBA tournament.
“Ang problema ang unang kalaban natin Italy. Wala. Ang sunod – ah wala talo tayo sa Croatia. Wala – walang laban. Wala tayo diyan. China na lang tayo magpusta,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
“Wala. Ay sus. Pa-corny ka pa. Wala talaga tayo. We will lose dito sa… Italian, ang lalaki kaya niyang mga g***** ‘ya,” he said.
He said the country would have better chances defeating the next team Angola during the tournament.
“Dito, ang sunod natin Angola. Ah ito, pwede natin ilibing nang buhay,” he said in jest.