Duterte to China: Don’t drill for oil in PH sea
President Duterte has warned China against drilling for oil and other resources in the West Philippine Sea, saying it could lead to war.
West Philippine Sea is the local name of the waters within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone in the heavily disputed South China Sea.
China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including swaths of the West Philippine Sea, but the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has invalidated that sweeping claim and recognized the Philippines’ sovereignty and right to explore for resources in its own waters.
‘There will be trouble’
Mr. Duterte, who considers Chinese President Xi Jinping “a good friend,” has said he will not assert the arbitral ruling, but will not allow China to extract resources in the West Philippine Sea either.
“I told him, Mr. Xi Jinping, we also have a claim. You know, we have the award (the arbitral ruling). But I will not insist on recovering the award because it would result in a war, and it will be a massacre. I know. But please be it noted that one day, during my term, I will assert [the court’s ruling],” Mr. Duterte said in a speech to a meeting of mayors from the Visayas in Cebu City on Tuesday night.
Mr. Duterte said he would not waste time countering criticism of his supposed inaction on China’s militarization of the South China Sea, but stressed he would not allow China to explore for resources in the West Philippine Sea.
“I assert, what, oil. If you monopolize it, there will be trouble,” Mr. Duterte said.
“Son of a bitch, there’s uranium there. Oil—that’s difficult. That’s where we’re going to have differences. That’s where you’ll see [Interior Secretary Eduardo] Año bring a machete there and cut down the Chinese,” he said.
It was the third time in less than two weeks that Mr. Duterte had thrown a stone at China, raising his stock with his people who had been prodding him to fight for the Philippines’ interest in the South China Sea disputes.
On Tuesday last week, Mr. Duterte said it was “wrong” for China to claim airspace over the artificial islands it had built in the Spratly archipelago and that it should rethink its behavior in the South China Sea.
Three days later, Mr. Duterte slammed China for its “nasty” radio warnings to Philippine airplanes and ships operating near the artificial islands.
“I told you we are not prepared to go to war with you, so why do you have to say those nasty words? There’s no need for that. We are your friends,” Mr. Duterte said in a speech in Davao City on Friday.
China rebuffed Mr. Duterte on the same day, saying the Spratlys were its inherent territory and that it respected the right to freedom of navigation and overflight that all countries enjoyed in the South China Sea under international law.
“But China has a right to take necessary steps to respond to foreign aircraft and ships that deliberately get close to or make incursions into the air and waters near China’s relevant islands, and provocative actions that threaten the security of Chinese personnel stationed there,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.
“China urges the relevant party to meet China halfway, and jointly protect the present good situation that has not come easily in the South China Sea,” it said.
Malacañang declined to comment.
Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who headed the Philippine challenge to China’s sweeping claim to almost all of the South China Sea, commended Mr. Duterte for standing up to China at last but said the administration should take further steps to uphold the rule of law in the South China Sea.
The Duterte administration is trying to conclude a joint exploration agreement in the West Philippine Sea with China.
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday said he intended to sign the deal during his visit to China in September.
On Wednesday, Cayetano said Mr. Duterte had approved his proposal to form a working group to thresh out a framework agreement for negotiating a joint exploration deal.
“I’ve been informed that they (China) already have their working group. So when I do go to Beijing, we will be discussing a framework,” Cayetano told reporters. —WITH REPORTS FROM JULIE M. AURELIO, AND DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN
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