President Rodrigo Duterte has appealed to the Chinese government to allow Filipino fishermen to fish in the waters “in peace.”
He made the statement amid escalating tensions between China and Philippines due to the lingering presence and activities of Chinese vessels within the country's exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.
“I know that it’s yours, according to you. I’ve heard that several times. But you know, you -- you must also have heard of the fact that people are hungry.”
“Ang Pilipino ay gutom, and you are not oblivious to that fact so kindly just allow our fishermen to fish in peace (Filipinos are hungry, and you are not oblivious to that fact so kindly just allow our fishermen to fish in peace)," Duterte said in his public address on Monday.
Duterte then said he saw no reason for "trouble" between China and the Philippines. But, he said, if there is trouble brewing, China should call the Philippines’ attention so the issue will be resolved.
“There is no reason for trouble. If there is one [brewing], you call our attention and we can talk immediately to solve the problem,” he said.
Duterte had told the Chinese government he will send warships to the disputed territory if Beijing starts to drill for oil and other mineral resources in the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte also said should China start drilling for oil, the Philippines should also do the same.
Despite his earlier threat, Duterte last Wednesday said the Philippines would not go to war with China which he considered a “good friend.”
“For the record, we do not want war with China. China is a good friend. We owed it a big debt of gratitude, among others for the vaccines [it donated to us],” he said in his taped speech last April 28.
The country has received a total of 3.5 million doses of China's Sinovac vaccines. The latest batch arrived just last Thursday.
Of the 3.5 million Sinovac doses, 2.5 million were procured while one million doses were donated by China.