Duterte: I’m not trying to please Chinese leader
President Duterte has assured that he wasn’t “trying to please” Chinese President Xi Jinping amid the South China Sea row, but admitted Manila has gained from its friendly relations with Beijing.
The President recalled that he had insisted on the Philippine claim to the West Philippine Sea before Chinese leaders when he last visited Beijing in May.
“Xi Jinping has been good to me. And we’re trying to, not really please him but ah—you know, that China Sea will always be there,” Mr. Duterte said at the 26th anniversary of the Bureau of Fire Protection in Quezon City on Wednesday night.
“They cannot carry it away. You want to take Palawan? Go ahead. Take half of it. If you can carry it, it’s yours. If not… leave it there,” he added in jest.
Duterte said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año, and Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa were present when he told the Chinese leaders during a meeting that he was going to allow drilling for oil in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
“I said, ‘I will drill oil in our territory.’ What was the answer in the bilateral there? In not so many words, they said that could mean war. We are not going to war with them,” he said.
“Their missiles can reach Manila… I don’t have fireworks that can reach that far,” he added in jest.
The President said he then told the Chinese leaders that he understood the situation and that he was there to maintain friendly ties between Beijing and Manila.
“I said I don’t want to go to war and let us just be friends. Just know that someday we will have to talk about it (the territorial dispute) because that is ours. That is ours. Yes. I said I understand. We are both claiming it as ours,” Mr. Duterte said.
“But someday you have to talk to me. I will not do it now because I come here in good faith and I want to be friends with you,” he said.
China claims 90 percent of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea, running into conflict with many Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines. It has constructed structures on reefs and atolls to bolster its claims.
An international tribunal in The Hague in 2016 rejected China’s argument that it has historic rights over most of the sea.
Mr. Duterte also noted that after his visit, the Chinese sent P370 million worth of firearms and ammunition while another shipment is expected in September.
“There’s another shipment, a second batch, that will arrive in September. It’s free,” he said, noting that he got the firearms by just talking to them.
He then taunted the critics of his policy on China.
“If you are brighter than men, why is it that I’m the one who’s President?” he added.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.