President Rodrigo Duterte said in his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) that the Philippines owns the West Philippine Sea, “no ifs and buts”.
“Let me assure you, that national honor and territorial integrity shall not – shall be foremost in our mind, and when we may take the next steps in this smoldering controversy over the lines of arbitral ruling, the West Philippine Sea is ours. There is no ifs and buts. It is ours,” he said.
“But we have been acting, along that legal truth and line. But we have to temper it with the times and the realities that we face today,” he added.
He said that the Philippines’ ownership of the West Philippine Sea is internationally recognized.
However, he said “the arbitral ruling even states that the Philippines may enter into fishing agreements with other states, provided certain conditions and requisites in the UNCLOS are met.”
“You know, they have been there fishing since time immemorial. I think it was Adam who got the first Lapu-Lapu there,” he said.
He also cited Ecclesiastes 3 saying there is time for everything. “There is a time to – for everything. A time to negotiate and a time to quarrel with your enemy, with your political opponents or with your wife,” he said.