There is no way that the country can reclaim the WPS without any bloodshed
President Rodrigo Duterte admits that the West Philippine Sea, part of the country’s territory, is in the possession of China but is worried that asserting Philippine sovereignty in the area, which China claims, will bring war.
“The issue of the West Philippines Sea remains to be a question forever until such time that you know, we can take it back. Walang iba, giyera lang,” Duterte said in a pre-recorded Talk To The People public address on Monday.
“If we promote a war against China and America…at what cost to us? Yan ang problema,” he also said.
Duterte blamed the previous administration for allowing China to take control of the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal.
He said that if a standoff between the Philippines and China were to happen again, he would make sure to order the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to “stay put” and not withdraw its vessels as his predecessor did.
“In a situation like that, if repeated in my administration, I think there is going to be a…talagang hindi ako aalis. Kung may barko ako diyan ngayon, yung coast guard ko nandiyan, hindi din ako mag-alis (I won’t leave. If there is a ship there now, the coast guard is there, I will not leave),” he said.
During the Talk To The People address, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana informed the President that the PCG ships conduct regular patrol to protect the Filipino fishermen in the WPS.
“Mr. President, wala naman balakid sa pagpunta natin doon, kahit nga yun Navy ships natin doon sa Pagasa Island, nagpapatrol din. (there is no hindrance in going there, even our Navy ships are also conducting patrol in the Pagasa Island). Our ships can regularly go there,” Lorenzana told Duterte
China seized control of the Scarborough Shoal in a controversial standoff wherein China blocked the access of Filipino fishermen in the area in 2012 prompting Manila to bring the case before the international arbitration.
On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won the arbitration case it lodged against China after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the contested waters. China refused to acknowledge the arbitral ruling.
Duterte has opted to pursue a bilateral approach to address the maritime row with China since he assumed office in 2016.
‘Only by force’
He admitted that there is no way that the country can reclaim the WPS without any bloodshed.
“The issue of the West Philippine Sea remains to be a question forever until such time that you know, we can take it back. Ang akin ‘yan is walang iba, giyera lang (For me, the only way is by war),” he said.
Duterte warned that promoting a war against China would have serious consequences.
“If we promote a war against China and America, medyo siguro madalian, pero (we might be able to speed it up but) what at cost to us? ‘Yan talaga ang problema (That’s really the problem). But we can retake it only by force. There is no way that we can get back the Philippine Sea without any bloodshed,” he added.
If military officials no longer support his decisions concerning the WPS, Duterte said he is willing to step down.
“If I cannot have the cooperation of the Armed Forces, then there’s no point in working for this government,” he said.
Rumors that a group of retired and active military officers have withdrawn support for Duterte over his silence on Chinese vessels in the WPS have circulated over social media.
Defense Secretary Deflin Lorenzana dismissed them as “irresponsible propaganda” while Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana urged the public to spare his agency from partisan politics.
‘Tell me what to do’
Duterte dared retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio to provide solutions to the sea dispute that are not being undertaken by government.
“Sige, tell me what to do except yung papel papel ninyo (just papers). Just to create a well, whatever it is. Maraming daldal, wala ka naman talagang magawa (You talk too much but haven’t done anything),” he said.
He mocked Carpio for being a “dreamer”, insisting that it was impossible for China to accept the arbitral ruling that invalidates their nine-dash line claim over the contested waters.
“I’d ask you a question, if the United Nations would ask China to surrender because of the award given to us, ibibigay ba ng China ‘yan? Andun yung problema (China would give it to us? That’s the problem). Can the United Nations compel China? And do you think China will just give it freely because of the United Nations demand?” he said. “I’ll give you 100 years, you can never get something there miski isang basong tubig sa China ngayon (even one glass of water from China now).”
He reminded Carpio that China started the “construction occupation” during the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.
“The construction occupation of WPS was completed by the singular act of China not retreating,” Duterte said, referring to the Scarborough Shoal standoff in 2012. (with PNA report)