MALACAÑANG on Wednesday reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte is not giving up the country’s claim over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) following his statement that he would set aside the international arbitral ruling on the disputed waters.
Speaking to reporters, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte was looking at other options that do not include confrontation with China.
“As far as I can see, he wants to, he says he’s not giving up on the matter, but it will be set aside for conversation someday,” Abella said in a news conference.
“However…he does see that there are other options that are open and that he’d rather keep it that way,” he added.
Duterte earlier said he would set aside the international tribunal’s ruling because he did not want to impose anything on China amid shifts in the “politics in Southeast Asia.”
The President also floated the idea of sharing fuel resources from the strategic waterway with China, despite a July international arbitral ruling that says parts of the sea are in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
“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 na lang 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 on Monday.
But Abella clarified that Duterte’s plan for a joint exploration between the Philippines and China in the contested waters was not yet government policy.
“These are not government-to-government agreements, but it may be business-to-business agreements. It may be [the]private sector,” Abella told reporters.
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday called on the administration to exercise caution before deciding on the offer of China to provide military equipment and weapons for the President’s anti-drug war.
“We can’t be too dumb not to realize that while China offers us weapons, they continue fortifying their defense facilities in our islands,” Lacson said.
Lacson, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, raised the need for an in-depth analysis and thorough discussion among top national security advisers and security experts before any decision is made.
“The issues involved here have far-reaching implications to our people and our country’s future generations.
Not one man, even if he is the President and commander-in-chief, has the monopoly of wisdom and knowledge concerning issues of this magnitude and proportion,” he added.