President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday insisted he won’t go to war that would result in the destruction of the armed forces of the country amid China’s show of military force in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
Duterte made this comment as he graced the 120th anniversary of the Philippine Navy, which is tasked to defend the country’s maritime territories.
“I cannot afford at this time to go to war. I cannot go into a battle, which I cannot win and it would only result in the destruction and probably a lot of losses for our armed forces,” Duterte said in his speech during the event held at the Coconut Palace, CCP Complex in Pasay City.
Duterte said he really wanted to do “something to assert” the Philippines’ claims in the West Philippine Sea, but opted to temporarily shelve an arbitral tribunal’s decision to give way to friendly and peaceful dialogues.
The United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled that China’s nine-dash line map, covering nearly the whole of South China Sea, has no legal basis.
“But you know, when I assumed the presidency, there was already this ruckus in the West Philippine Sea. It used to be China Sea,” Duterte explained.
Duterte has said he had discussed with Chinese President Xi Jinping that he would bring up the PCA’s verdict again with the Chinese leader before he steps down in 2022.
The President said he would have taken “a stronger but probably a more violent way of doing it”.
“And I said in my own estimation, it would be a great loss to the nation and probably end up losing a war. And all of these things I have wanted to make known to you and whether you accept it or not, that is the reality on the ground,” he said.
In a Palace press briefing on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque assured the Philippines would not give up any of its territorial claims in the WPS.
“Right now, our position is still the same: whatever happens there, no territory will be given. We will assert our rights and sovereignty on the maritime territory that is part of our exclusive economic zone,” Roque said.
Roque has said that the Philippines expresses serious concerns over reports that China has landed combat aircraft, including a long-range H-6K bomber, at an airfield of one of its reclaimed island in the WPS.
China has denied the militarization allegations, saying the movement of the bombers was just part of the normal Chinese military training in the South China Sea, which Beijing claimed “are Chinese territories”.
Roque said the Philippines, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), is already addressing the deployment of Chinese military assets through diplomatic approach. PNA