President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday that he was keeping faith in the word of honor of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who promised that China would not encroach into Philippine territory in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
“I just hope that he would honor it because it will change the entire geography of the world,” said Mr. Duterte at the sixth anniversary of the Philippine Marines.
He said “war starts” if there was any aggression in disputed territories in the South China Sea.
“I don’t know what would be the next geographical division of Asia,” said Mr. Duterte.
He also recalled that he had told Xi that the Philippines would not give up its claim on Pag-asa Island and nearby islands which the Philippines occupies.
Mr. Duterte’s spokesperson, Harry Roque, earlier said that the President trusted China and believed it would not create artificial islands in Philippine waters, especially with the use of its newest mammoth island maker, a ship that could dredge 6,000 cubic meters of sand per hour.
Defense officials were trying to monitor the movement of the giant dredging ship, Tian Kun Hao, after Chinese media reported that it started tests in waters that China claimed to be part of its territory.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said it would be a cause of concern if the ship was deployed to the West Philippine Sea.
Roque said Mr. Duterte was keeping faith in China, however.
“The President recognizes the principle of good faith in international relations,” said Roque.
“China has told the President they don’t intend to reclaim Scarborough. We leave it at that. We need to rely on good faith,” he said.
“Otherwise, there will be no predictability in international relations,” Roque said at a press briefing.
Asked if the President would discuss Philippine defense officials’ concern about the ship with China, Roque reiterated that Mr. Duterte relied on the principle of good faith.
He also said the Philippines was not just trusting China, but also relying on the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which remains unchanged.