President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said the Philippines and China can jointly hold exploration activities at the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and share whatever resources they can come up with.
“I have this arbitral award, so I have to push it. Kung gusto ninyo [If you want], let’s just develop what’s the oil there, hati-hati nalang tayo [we can share]. What will I do with the Scarborough Shoal? Swim there everyday? For what? To send my soldiers there to die? Susmaryorsep. I will just have to start with the domestic problem,” the President said in his speech during the 2016 Annual Search for Outstanding Government Workers in Malacañang.
His declaration was a complete turnaround to his earlier statement rejecting joint exploration in disputed waters, saying he is not empowered by Congress to do so.
“I cannot give something, and I cannot also add what has not been given me,” the President had said in October.
He said he did not raise the issue when he made a state visit to China because he was merely a visitor.
“There will be a day, sinabi ko kay [Chinese President] Xi Jinping, that we will have to take this up. But not now because I am here as a visitor. And yung sabi I cannot talk about it kasi labas na tayo, bisita lang ako dito. But I will bring this up…I will bring this up, someday,” Duterte said.
Last week, the President said he will set aside the decision and not impose anything on China despite reports that Beijing had installed a significant weapons system in disputed islands.
But Malacanang yesterday said Duterte is not renouncing the country’s claim.
“The President has said on numerous occasions that he will not deviate from the four corners of the ruling,” Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement.
Andanar stressed that that since Duterte assumed office, “he has been revitalizing bilateral ties with China.”
“His administration has been building confidence and trust with Chinese leaders and we expect this to continue, until such time that we achieve a trust level that will allow us to discuss the more sensitive issues in our bilateral relations,” he said.
“Having said this, the Philippine government reaffirms its respect for and strict adherence to this milestone ruling and will be guided by its parameters when tackling the issue of maritime claims in the South China Sea,” Andanar added.