Can’t afford to go to war with China over sea row, Duterte admits
UPDATED @ 2:21 a.m., July 28, 2020
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday once again admitted he could not afford to go to war against China in asserting the Philippines’ sovereignty in the South China Sea.
During his penultimate State of the Nation Address on Monday, Duterte stressed that China is already “in possession” of the contested waters.
“We have to go to war. And I cannot afford it. Maybe some other president can but I cannot. Inutil ako diyan. Talagang inutil ako diyan. Walang magawa [I’m useless when it comes to that. Really, I’m useless to that. I can’t do anything]. I cannot,” the President said.
“China is claiming it, we are claiming it. China has the arms. We do not have it. So, it’s as simple as that. They are in possession of the property…so what can we do?” he added.
The chief executive issued this pronouncement as he addressed criticisms that the Philippine government doing “nothing” to “retake forcefully or physically the South China Sea.”
“Unless we are prepared to go to war, I would suggest that we better just cool off and treat this as a diplomatic endeavor,” Duterte said.
“The moment I send my marines there at the coastal shores of Palawan and they all get hit with cruise missiles — they have not even set sail, they’re already blown up,” he further said, speaking partly in Filipino.
Earlier, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. called as “non-negotiable” the historic ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague on July 12, 2016, which invalidated China’s expansive claims over the entire South China Sea.
The decision also upheld the Philippines’ rights over its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
But in response, the Chinese Embassy in Manila claimed that the PCA ruling was “illegal and invalid.”
On the other hand, Malacañang assured Filipinos that the Philippine government did not waive or relinquish its rights over the contested areas in the West Philippines Sea.
This, even after the Palace had previously said it would “agree to disagree” on China’s rejection of the Philippines’ appeal for compliance with the 2016 ruling.
JPV / ATM
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