Pres. Duterte tells China, “we’re friends” but PHL sovereignty not subject to compromise

Says PHL ships to continue patrolling in West PHL Sea even if China does not like this

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on April 28, 2021. KING RODRIGUEZ/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO


(Eagle News) — President Rodrigo Duterte said Philippine ships patrolling Philippine waters would remain there even if China does not like the country’s actions.

The 75-year old Philippine leader said that while he is friends with China, he would not do what his predecessor did — former President Benigno Aquino III — when he allowed the Philippine ships in a stand-off with Chinese ships at the Scarborough Shoal in April 2012 to withdraw and leave when asked by the United States purportedly to preserve the peace. But unlike the Philippines, China did not leave the area and proceeded on claiming the Shoal.

-Duterte tells Lorenzana: Don’t withdraw PHL ships –

Duterte, in his latest Talk to the Nation on April 28, directed Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to continue patrols in the West Philippine Sea, and not to withdraw or retreat, defying China’s call for the Philippine ships to leave the area.

Before this, he asked Lorenzana if the Philippines has ships patrolling the West Philippine Sea.  Lorenzana answered that yes, there were two ships.

“Oh, ayon. Mayroon tayong dalawang barko. Subukan nilang ipa… Sabihin ko sa China, we do not want trouble, we do not want war. Pero kung sabihin mo na paalisin mo lang na ano. No,” he said.

Duterte said that he would stand his ground — Philippine ships would not leave the area and would continue its patrols.  He said that he could not depend on America’s help too, as this would not materialize if it would lead to a war.

This handout photo taken April 14, 2021, and received from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on April 15, Philippine coast guard ship BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409), in centre, along with coast guard-manned Bureau of Fisheries boats, patrol an area in the South China Sea. (Photo by – / Philippine Coast Guard / AFP) /

President Duterte stressed he does not want war with China, and that China is a “good friend” so much so the Chinese government even donated 1 million vaccine doses to the Philippines to help fight COVID — something that America failed to do, he noted — but he would not compromise on this since the country’s interest is at stake.

-Doubts on US readiness to help-

Tapos sabi — ito, this would really be a test. I’ve read that China said, ‘umalis kayo.’ Sabihin ko ngayon, huwag kayong umalis. Period. Que se joda kung tulungan tayo ng Amerika o hindi. Huwag na tayong umasa sa kanila. Hindi ‘yan kakasa sa atin. A nuclear war na sasabog itong mundo, kakasa ang
Amerika? Hindi,” he said.

Tayo kakasahan tayo, kaya ako sabi ko, I’m stating it for the record, we do not want war with China. China is a good friend. Mayroon tayong utang na loob na marami pati ‘yong bakuna natin. So China, let it be known, is a good friend, and we do not want a trouble with them, especially a war,” he said.

-Duterte: “No compromise. I have the interest of my country to protect”

“But there are things which are not really subject to a compromise, kagaya nang ginawa mag-atras-atras. Mahirap po ‘yan. Sana they will understand but I have the interest of my country also to protect. It might not really be a might — an armed might, but it is really a claim of sovereignty which I
cannot… Iyan nandiyan na ‘yon, ‘yan na example,” he said.

Duterte said that the situation is evolving, and he would see what happens next, but withdrawing the Philippine ships is not an option for him since the area is part of the country.

O sige, tingnan natin anong gawain natin o ano ginawa nila? Now, let us compare it is evolving na nangyayari pa, it is evolving. Now, let us see what happens. Ako, kung paalisin tayo nang ganoon lang, ‘umalis kayo’, sabihin ko, huwag kayong umalis. Bakit kayo aalis diyan? Atin ’yan eh,” he said.

Duterte’s remarks was buttressed by the Philippine defense department which said that “China has no business telling the Philippines what we can and cannot do with our own waters”.

-Aquino, Del Rosario’s move to withdraw PHL ship in Scarborough Shoal blamed-

During his latest Talk to the Nation, President Duterte again blamed the Aquino administration, as well as Aquino’s Foreign Affairs Secretary then Alberto del Rosario for leaving Scarborough Shoal and following the US directive in 2012.

Nagkaroon ng standoff kasi pinapaalis tayo, pinapaalis natin sila. Ngayon na medyo nagkagulo, takot ang mundo na magkaupakan, itong Amerika na sabi nila na dedepensahan nila tayo, eh bakit hindi sila pumunta doon at sinabi nila ‘sa Pilipinas man ‘to’? Kaya kami pati gumagamit nitong mga tubig na ito. Eh di kayo ang umalis. Bakit hindi nagpadala? Bakit hindi nila tinawag ang Seventh Fleet magpunta doon,” he said.

The Philippine president also raised this question: If America is really a friend that would help the country when it needs help, why did it not do so in April 2012?

Iyan ang tanong ko: Bakit noon kailangan na natin ang Amerikano, bakit walang barko ng Amerikano pumunta doon para tumulong sa ating Coast Guard? Second, eh kung nagdating man doon sa panahon na it’s a legal tussle between countries, bakit natalo tayo? Anong ginawa ninyo?”

(File photo) This photo taken on May 14, 2019, Chinese coastguard ship monitors during the joint search and rescue exercise between Philippine and US coastguards near Scarborough shoal in the South China Sea. – Two Philippine coastguard ships, BRP Batangas and Kalanggaman and US coastguard cutter Bertholf participated in the exercise, as two Chinese coastguard ships monitor from a distance. (Photo by TED ALJIBE / AFP)

Duterte said that his critics should not bring up to him the 2016 Arbitral Ruling since the area was really the country’s territory, he said. But the problem is that the previous administration then did not stand their ground and left at the critical point.

Huwag ‘yong arbitral ruling. Iyong arbi — atin man talaga ‘yang… Hindi naman kailangan ‘yan. Anong ginawa ninyong nasa gobyerno? Ikaw Albert,ikaw ‘yong nagsabi sa Navy “umatras kayo” because of the Americans or you were afraid …  Sana sinabi mo ‘yong we will stand our ground. We will not retreat. We will
not get out of the West Philippine Sea because it’s ours. And we are calling or at least an offer from the United States to send a flotilla of ships to —para to back us up,” he said.

Duterte also said that former Supreme Court senior associate Antonio Carpio should have advised Aquino then not to retreat so China would not have been emboldened on its claim.

Nasa Supreme Court man kayo noon. Bakit hindi ninyo sinabihan si PNoy maggawa nito, gawa doon? Instead, nag-retreat kayo. Ang naabutan ko, talo na tayo. Ang China kumasa na nang husto na kanila talaga.”

“Iyon ang istorya diyan. Remember na pagdating ko sa opisina sa pagkaPresidente, iyang China Sea,, nandoon na talaga sa China kasi umatras tayo, hindi tayo kumasa. Sino ang presidente noon?” he pointed out.

-PHL Coast Guard drills continue-

Presently, the Philippine coast guard is conducting drills near Thitu Island and Scarborough Shoal, as well as the Batanes islands in the north and the southern and eastern parts of the country.

Scarborough — one of the region’s richest fishing grounds — has long been a flashpoint between Manila and Beijing.

In response to the exercises, China’s foreign ministry said Monday the Philippines should “stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes”.

In recent weeks, Manila has boosted “sovereignty patrols” involving the navy, coast guard and fisheries in the Spratly Islands — an archipelago contested by several countries.

In this undated handout photo received from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on April 25, 2021, coast guard personnel conduct maritime exercises near Thitu island, in the disputed South China Sea. (Photo by Handout / Philippine coast Guard (PCG) / AFP)
In this undated handout photo received from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on April 25, 2021, coast guard personnel conduct maritime exercise near Thitu island in the disputed South China Sea. (Photo by Handout / Philippine coast Guard (PCG) / AFP)

Beijing has ignored a 2016 international tribunal decision that declared its historical claim over most of the South China Sea to be without basis.

Once-frosty ties between Manila and Beijing have warmed under Duterte, who set aside the ruling in exchange for promises of trade and investment — which critics say have not materialised.

Delays in Covid-19 vaccine deliveries has left the Philippines heavily reliant on the CoronaVac jab developed by China’s Sinovac.

Around 3.5 million doses of CoronaVac have been sent to the Southeast Asian country so far, including one million donated doses.

(with a report from Agence France-Presse)