Duterte plans PH Rise trip to assert sovereignty
President Duterte on Thursday said that he was planning to set sail for the Philippine Rise next week in order to assert the country’s sovereignty over the area.
Mr. Duterte bared this plan in a speech before Masons where he defended his administration’s friendship with China amid their maritime dispute over the South China Sea, while also saying he would not allow any other country to claim the Philippine (formerly Benham) Rise.
‘I will go to war’
He recalled that when the issue of foreign ships conducting research in the Philippine Rise came up, he was asked what he would do if other countries claimed it. “I said, I will go to war. And I will go to war, believe me,” Mr. Duterte said.
He said he would set sail for the Philippine Rise next week.
“Next week, I’m going to set sail. I’m going to the [Philippine Rise] and I will make a statement there that nobody but nobody owns this place, including the continental shelf, the underground land mass that extends under the sea, [but the Philippines]. And if it extends to San Francisco Bay, San Francisco Bay is a property of the Republic of the Philippines,” he said.
The Philippine Rise, a 24-million-hectare undersea feature off the country’s eastern coast, is believed to be rich in resources.
In his speech on Thursday, the President brought up China’s offer for a joint exploration in the South China Sea, and he told Beijing that he could offer a “better deal”—a 60-40 division.
He cannot enter into a fight in the area, he said.
“President Xi Jinping is a friend. We’ll share with you, and nobody has done that to the Philippines,” he said.
Given China’s willingness to help him, Mr. Duterte scoffed at those who were pushing him to “go hard” against the Philippines’ giant neighbor.
“What for?” he asked.
Mr. Duterte had blamed the United States for failing to stop China’s reclamation activities in the South China Sea several years ago, allowing the Asian superpower to build a “military garrison” there.
“At the time, who could have stopped it? Tell me. Philippine Navy? Marines? There would have been a massacre. Who was the power who could have stopped it on time? It was only America,” he said.
“[The United States] could have sent [its] armada and the Seventh Fleet there and said, ‘Hey guy, you cannot build artificial islands in the high seas,” he added.
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