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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Phl will not withdraw from contested waters in West Philippine Sea, President Duterte tells China

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on May 13, 2021. ROBINSON NIÑAL/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Philippine maritime assets will continue patrolling the country’s territorial waters in the West Philippine Sea, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has said, reiterating he will not compromise national sovereignty.

In his taped address to the nation Thursday, President Duterte described the 2012 standoff in the Scarborough shoal “a poor man’s gamble,” where the Philippines lost control over the sea feature to China.

“Kaya ako sabihin ko sa China ngayon, as I’ve said before to repeat: I am not ready to withdraw. I do not want a quarrel, I do not want trouble, I respect your position and you respect mine. But we will not go to war,” President Duterte said.

The President insisted there’s nothing wrong in admitting the country’s inferiority in terms of might and power, but this shouldn’t give China the right to bully smaller nations like the Philippines.

“Hindi naman masama magprangka ka, ito lang talaga ang kakayanan ko. Pero huwag mo naman akong kayahin. Ngayon, hindi talaga ako aatras. Patayin mo man ako kung patayin mo ako, dito ako. Dito magtatapos ang ating pagkakaibigan.”

With regard to the possible intervention by the Americans, in which the Philippines maintains a mutual defense pact, the President said he has no intention of toeing the US’s line.

“Please do not include me with you. Baka tingin ninyo sa akin kagaya nitong mga insurektos na ito. Hindi mo ako mapasunod diyan. Basta sinabi ko, you stay put. I die there, we die there,” he said.

The Philippines sent coast guard assets after Chinese vessels entered and remained anchored for some period of time in the country’s territorial waters in the West Philippine Sea.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told the President that the Philippine sea assets continue to patrol the area.

“Paikot-ikot diyan sa may bandang Kalayaan Island Group natin, Mr. President, hanggang diyan sa Mischief Reef, ‘yong maraming shoal doon, nagpaikot-ikot sila doon,” he said.

The President considers China a friend, particularly after the Asian economic giant donated COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines in March. Vaccines from pharmaceutical firm Sinovac continues to form part of the country’s inventory of COVID-19 jabs. PND