(Eagle News) — The Philippines will not withdraw its ships from the West Philippine Sea.
This was President Rodrigo Duterte’s stance himself, which he made public again days after the country filed another diplomatic protest against China, this time over the more than 200 Chine maritime vessels in the West Philippine Sea.
The Asian giant has staked its claims on almost all of the body of water, citing the nine-dash line it said demarcated its territories, waters, and features.
“Mga barko natin, nandiyan sa Pag-asa island [Our ships in Pag-asa Island]… we will not move an inch..,” the President said in a taped message.
He added, however, that “we will not go to war with China,” citing the Philippines’ “debt of gratitude.”
China has donated over a million Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Philippines, which kicked off its vaccination drive in March.
The President expressed hope China would understand the Philippines’ position “kung hindi, magkakaroon ng problema (if not we will have problems).”
“Sabihin ko sa China ngayon, as I said before, I am not ready to withdraw, I don’t want a quarrel, I don’t want trouble, I respect your position and you respect mine,” the President said.
Philippines-China relations have warmed since President Duterte assumed office in 2016.
Although President Duterte has called China a “friend,” he has since remained firm on his stance on the dispute on the West Philippine Sea.
The President even raised the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling in favor of the Philippines in the West Philippines Sea issue when he met with China President Xi Jinping in 2019.
Xi, however, did not budge.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has vowed to file a diplomatic protest for every day Chinese vessels were in the West Philippine Sea.