President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday gave assurances that the Philippines will not install weapons on islands that it will occupy on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In a news conference before his departure for the Middle East, Duterte explained that he ordered the military to occupy islands that the Philippines claims in the disputed waters because of the “heightening of the geopolitical issues” in the area.
He however stressed that he does not want to get involved in any war.
“China can relax. We are friends. We will not go to war with you. We’re just trying to maintain the balance of the geopolitical situation there. So for the information of China, we will not place there any offensive weapons, not even one gun. We are just there to claim the island for us because that is really ours. And I have ordered the Armed Forces to build structures there to signify to all that we own these (islands) and so we will fly our flag and build structures. We do not [mean any harm] to China,” the President said.
“I do not want to get involved in a war between nations,” Duterte added as he urged Beijing to understand Manila’s position.
“I have extended my hand in friendship to the Chinese government. Kindly, kindly take a deep look at the situation. Everybody’s grabbing every land, every islet whether man-made [or not]. And nearest to us are the 10 islands and I have it on good authority,” he said.
The President said he may consider selling Philippine islands if the country gets “very rich.”
“We are friends, as a matter of fact. And maybe when we get rich, very rich, I can sell the land to you. When the spectacle of a war is gone, nothing is dangerous to the Philippines,” he said.
“But for as long as the ruckus continues and I heard that someone installed there a battery of missiles, I will not allow it. That’s why I decided to occupy and claim [the islands] as ours,” he added.
Duterte last week ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to occupy all islands the country claims in the South China Sea.
“We have to maintain our jurisdiction over the South China Sea,” he later told reporters.
China has expressed concern over Duterte’s directive, urging Manila to “properly manage” the maritime dispute.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that Beijing hopes Manila would work to maintain bilateral ties between the two countries.
“Having noted the report, the Chinese side is concerned about it. We hope the Philippine side will continue to properly manage maritime disputes with China and work with us to maintain the sound and steady growth of China-Philippines relations,” Hua said.