DESPITE the ongoing installation of military facilities by China in the West Philippine Sea, President Rodrigo Duterte still believes that the disputed waters are “really ours” and that the defensive structures are intended for the US.
“China is building structures and military bases, I must admit, but is it intended for us? I do not think so,” Duterte told Chinese-Filipino businessmen during the 10th biennial convention and 20th founding anniversary celebration of the Chinese-Filipino Business Club Inc. at the Manila Hotel on Monday night.
“[The military structures] are really intended against those who China thinks will destroy them and that is America. We are not included there,” Duterte said.
Duterte downplayed the presence of Chinese vessels in the area, saying that the Philippines should “not be threatened.”
“Those [ships]are not intended for us,” said Duterte.
While reiterating that “there was no question that the West Philippine Sea was indeed ours,” Duterte said that the Philippines could only be “diplomatic” in dealing with China.
“Basing on facts, [South] China Sea is really ours. Insofar as the Republic of the Philippines is concerned, I am ready, almost ready to put my Presidency, my life and honor, that [it]is ours. I have stated that in black and white… no doubt about it,” Duterte said.
“[I am saying this] in front of the ambassador [of China]. We will insist [on it]but what will be the components of our demands? We can only be diplomatic. We can only be talking on friendly and civilized terms,” Duterte said, referring to Ambassador Zhao Jianhua.
Duterte said there was no reason to fight because China was willing to talk.
“Can you beat [China]? [We are being afraid of the missiles of China] but that is not ours,” Duterte said.
“When I can talk to them, why should I fight? China is willing to talk. As a matter of fact, there are now ongoing negotiations for joint exploration. Can you beat that?” Duterte said.
Duterte also said in jest that if Chinese President Xi Jinping would fire a cruise missile to the Philippines, the Filipino-Chinese community would be wiped out.
Duterte also said that he would “not sacrifice the lives of the Filipinos only to die.”
“I will not go into a battle, which I cannot win. How can I win it? [It is] China,” Duterte said.
Duterte blamed the former administration for allowing China to build its facilities in the West Philippine Sea.
“The critics say that I am not doing enough. What they were doing during their time? Why did they not start to build the structures that China is doing now? Even in the claim itself and development of the claim, the country did not do anything,” Duterte said.
“We cannot go there, ride in our whatever, Navy, the gray ships, the Coast Guard and start waving our rifles. We cannot do that today. It is unrealistic. It cannot be true,” Duterte said.
Photos showing China’s ongoing “militarization” of seven of the artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea surfaced in early February.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the Philippine government had issued its protest but that was all it could do.
In recent years, China has expanded its claims to most of the waterway as it continued its build-up and militarization.
China also refused to acknowledge the July 6, 2016 ruling of the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal, which maintained that the Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea and dismissed Beijing’s assertion of ownership based on its “nine-dash line.”
‘A lot of ek-ek’
Exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison said the President’s “these are ours” statement was a lot “ek-ek” from “a stupid guy who is a bloody bully to his own poor countrymen but an abject puppet and a coward to foreign interests.”
“In his subjective, he might even think that he is smart by enriching himself and his gang at the expense of the Filipino people,” said Sison, when sought for his comment.
Starting off on friendly terms at the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the communist rebels, Duterte and Sison had a “falling out” after the President ordered the termination of the negotiations following ceasefire violations by the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the CPP.
Sison slammed Duterte for his joke before the Chinese-Filipino businessmen about having no problems if the Philippines would become a province of China.
The communist leader, who is on self-exile in The Netherlands with his wife, echoed the statement of US-based maritime expert Gregory Polling that China was only “squeezing” the Philippines by compelling Duterte to surrender to Beijing.
“China does its own squeezing by compelling Duterte to surrender to China the sovereign and maritime rights of the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea, all or most of the trillions of dollars worth of mineral and marine resources under the guise of joint exploration and development and even the huge Benham Rise on the eastern side of Luzon in exchange for overpriced infrastructure projects and high interest loans, which upon sure failure of payment shall be converted into Chinese equity over the projects,” Sison said.
Sison said that Duterte has also been allowing himself to get squeezed by the US who has prolonged its “all-sided dominance over the Philippines.”
“[This] prevents national industrialization and land reform and lets the hedge funds continue to starve the Philippines of the portfolio investments that used to buoy up the GDP [Gross Domestic Product] in most years of the Noynoy [former president Benigno Aquino 3rd]regime,” Sison said.
The US has also been assisting the Philippines in its deployment of the military against the communist and Moro rebels, said Sison.
“Duterte thinks that he can play off the US and China and get advantages for himself both ways,” Sison said.
“He gets Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines from Trump to assure him of military assistance for killing Filipino revolutionaries and Bangsamoro rebels. And he gets from China pledges of infrastructure projects and loans for the purpose,” he said.
WITH DEMPSEY REYES