Duterte on South China Sea claims: We won’t insist now
Despite a recent victory in the arbitral tribunal, President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said the Philippines will not press its claims on the disputed South China Sea against its neighboring superpower, at least for now.
In a speech in typhoon-hit Isabela, Duterte said he mentioned the country’s rights to the contested areas, as Chinese officials maintained historical ownership of the South China Sea.
“Pumunta ako ng China at napakabait nila. Nag-usap kami, sabi ko ang pinunta ko dito, hindi makipag-away… Ang problema ang sabi niya, amin talaga ‘to (South China Sea) historically at hindi kami bibigay dito,” Duterte said, recalling his state visit to Beijing last week.
(I went to China and they were very kind. We talked, I said that my visit there wasn’t to start a fight… The problem was they said the South China Sea was theirs historically and that they weren’t going to give in.)
“’Di ako makikipag-away kasi wala akong nakikitang magandang solusyon kung makikipagpatayan… Sabi niya, we can resolve this case peacefully, walang away, walang dugo and it will take time,” he added.
(I didn’t fight with them because I don’t see a good solution if we are going to kill each other … They said, we can resolve this case peacefully, no fighting, no blood, and it will take time.)
Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to enter into bilateral negotiations to resolve the maritime dispute, far from the Philippines’ previous stance of engaging only in multilateral talks on overlapping territorial claims.
The Philippine government earlier said Duterte would not raise the territorial dispute issue in his visit to Beijing as a confidence-building measure, following tensions that arose from the legal tussle that took global stage under the previous administration.
Citing a realigned foreign policy and “separation” from the United States, Duterte brought home billions worth of investment and credit line pledges from China, and the possibility that Filipino fishermen might exercise its rights again over the Scarborough Shoal.
“Basta balang araw, we will continue to talk and one day in the future pag-usapan talaga natin. Hindi tayo lalabas sa dokumentong ito, sang-ayon na kami ay nanalo diyan sa pagmamay-ari,” Duterte said.
(One day, we will continue to talk and one day in the future, we will really discuss it. We will not stray from this document, we agree that we won in our claim.)
“I will not insist now. I will not go to war now and waste the life of our soldiers,” he added.
Manila sealed a convincing win against Beijing before the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague, which invalidated China’s claims to almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea. Beijing refused to recognize the ruling. JE/rga
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