PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday he would not press China on a ruling by an UN-backed arbitration tribunal on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) despite Beijing’s alleged installation of weapons on artificial islands it had built in the disputed waters.
“In the play of politics, now, I will set aside the arbitral ruling,” Duterte told reporters during a news conference in Davao City after his state visits to Cambodia and Singapore.
Duterte was referring to the July international arbitral ruling which favors the Philippines’ maritime claims over the West Philippine Sea.
“I will not impose anything on China. Why? Because the politics here in Southeast Asia is changing. Like us now, separating or I will separate or I will demand that they (US forces) go out of my country,” the President said.
Duterte made the statement as he threatened anew to cancel the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, after its aid agency Millennium Challenge Corp. put on hold funding for development programs in the Philippines.
The President reiterated that the Philippines was not ready to fight to China and said that it was the US who was “egging” a fight.
On Friday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said the Philippines “cannot stop China at this point in time.”
The country “will continue to pursue peaceful means at which all of these can be prevented,” he said.
“[T]here is nothing that we can do about that now, whether or not it is being done for purposes of further militarizing these facilities that they have put up,” Yasay said.