PH vessels to stay put in WPS, Duterte tells China

President Rodrigo Duterte has told China that the Philippines will continue conducting maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) amid Beijing’s incursions into the disputed waters.

In his taped public address delivered Thursday night but televised Friday noon, Duterte put China on notice that Philippine vessels would stay put in WPS.

“I’d like to put notice on China. May dalawang barko ako diyan, Philippine government (The Philippine government has two ships there),” Duterte said. “Kaya ako, sabihin ko sa China ngayon (So, I am telling China now), I am not ready to withdraw [the Philippine vessels from WPS].”

On Wednesday, the National Task Force for WPS (NTF-WPS) said maritime exercises in WPS will continue upon Duterte’s directive.

BRP Malapascua (MRRV 4003), MCS 3001, and 3008 were deployed at the Kalayaan municipality in Palawan, while BRP Sindangan (MRRV 4407) and MCS 3005 are within the area of Bajo de Masinloc, the NTF-WPS said.

The Philippine vessels, the NTF-WPS said, are being complemented by the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) four high speed tactical watercraft, three police gunboats, and police fast boats to patrol the municipal waters and portions of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the disputed waters.

The Philippines’ heightened presence in WPS came following the “illegal” incursions of Chinese vessels into the country’s EEZ.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who attended the meeting with Duterte at Malacañan Palace, said the Philippine ships are conducting maritime patrols within Kalayaan Island Group and Mischief Reef.

Duterte said he has no plan to order the withdrawal of Philippine ships from WPS, even if Manila’s friendship with Beijing would be at stake.

Ngayon, hindi talaga ako aatras. Patayin mo man ako kung patayin mo ako, dito ako. Dito magtatapos ang ating pagkakaibigan (Now, I will really not order them to withdraw. You can kill me if you want but we will stay there. I don’t mind if it would cost our friendship),” he said.

Echoing Duterte’s stance, the NTF-WPS said the Philippines would continue to defend its sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction over WPS, and would not “yield an inch of our territory”.

Duterte said the Philippines would “not move an inch backward”.

He, however, clarified that he is not waging a war on China.

“I do not want a quarrel. I do not want trouble. I respect your position and you respect mine. But we will not go to war,” he said.

Duterte made the statement, as he maintained that the Philippines could not afford to launch a war against China.

“It’s not wrong to admit na inferior ka (that you are inferior) in terms of might and power. Hindi naman masamang magprangka ka na ito lang talaga ang kakayahan ko (It’s not wrong to be frank that this is just my limitation),” he said.

Duterte also reiterated that the Philippines continues to honor its debt of gratitude to China. PNA.GOV.PH