Duterte: Let time deal with PH-China sea row

Credit to Author: The Manila Times| Date: Fri, 24 Jan 2020 13:42:23 +0000

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said it would be prudent to let “time” deal with the country’s territorial row with China than pursuing a “very dangerous” hostile approach.

In an exclusive interview aired by Russia Today on Friday, Duterte said going to war with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute would be “reckless” since the country would likely end up getting annihilated.

“I cannot afford a stand where I would be drumming my war drums because we cannot afford it. It would annihilate the Philippines and so it’s a very dangerous (move),” Duterte said.

“And I said, the war with China at this time is of no use for us,” he added.

The President said that he preferred to keep friendly negotiations with China with regard to the ongoing sea disputes.

“We want as well just be friendly, improve our trade and commerce, and let time heal (everything),” Duterte said.

“Tomorrow will take care of itself, one thing we are sure of. And like any other historical claim, the world is always changing. And we did not really do it at the expense of the lives of the Filipinos,” he said.

The President also said he could not be as aggressive as Vietnam, because the Philippines and China might end up being engaged in a “bloody” battle.

“Because you know the other side (Vietnam) really wants to do a more aggressive stance and I cannot afford to do it,” Duterte said.

“Spratly Island is near our islands, our provincial islands. [The] local government of the Philippines is near them and so it would be a reckless move if I send out, just like Vietnam, small vessels only to get a bloody nose at the end of the day,” he said.

Vietnam and China got into a heated dispute when a Chinese energy survey ship began patrolling near Vanguard Bank, a seabed tract around 352 kilometers off the coast of southern Vietnam, in July last year.

Since assuming the presidency, Duterte has sought to downplay Manila’s maritime dispute with Beijing in exchange for improved ties with the world’s second largest economy.

Duterte has also refused to flaunt the Philippines’ victory against China in a United Nations-backed arbitration court in 2016 which invalidated Beijing’s expansive claims to the waters.

But the President defended his approach, saying Manila cannot yet stand up to Beijing, whose military and economy are far superior.

The Philippines claims parts of the South China Sea within its exclusive economic zone and calls it the West Philippine Sea. CATHERINE S. VALENTE