President Rodrigo Duterte has deemed it unwise for the Philippines to pick a fight with China over the control of disputed islands in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
In an exclusive interview aired by Russia Today on Friday, Duterte maintained that it would be “very dangerous” to take a hostile approach to the Philippines’ long-standing dispute with China in the resource-rich waters.
“I cannot afford a stand where I would be drumming my war drums because we cannot afford it. It would annihilate the Philippines and so it’s a very dangerous (move),” Duterte said.
“And I said, the war with China at this time is of no use for us,” he added.
Manila on July 12, 2016 won the arbitration case it lodged against Beijing after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands invalidates Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the contested waters.
China, refusing to acknowledge the arbitral ruling, has continued to claim ownership over nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea.
Apart from the Philippines, China also has competing claims with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
The President said he could not be as aggressive as Vietnam, because the Philippines and China might only end up being engaged in a “bloody” battle.
“Because you know the other side (Vietnam) really wants to do a more aggressive stance and I cannot afford to do it,” he said.
“Spratly Island is near our islands, our provincial islands. Local government of the Philippines is near them and so it would be a reckless move if I send out, just like Vietnam, small vessels only to get a bloody nose at the end of the day,” Duterte added.
Vietnam and China got into a heated dispute when a Chinese energy survey ship began patrolling near Vanguard Bank, a seabed tract around 352 kilometers off the coast of southern Vietnam, in July last year.
Despite China’s sweeping maritime claims, Duterte maintained that he prefers to keep friendly negotiations with Beijing with regard to the ongoing sea disputes.
“We want as well just be friendly, improve our trade and commerce, and let time heal (everything),” he said.
“Tomorrow will take care of itself, one thing we are sure of. And like any other historical claim, the world is always changing. And we did not really do it at the expense of the lives of the Filipinos,” the President added. PNA.GOV.PH