President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said that he had pressed China on the South China Sea dispute, contrary to criticism directed at him by Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and former Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert del Rosario.
Speaking at the 33rd Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA) National Convention in Davao City, Duterte said China indicated that it was willing to go to war if the Philippines pressed its claim in disputed territories.
Duterte said National Security Adviser Sec. Hermogenes Esperon and Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana witnessed how he brought up the topic of the arbitral ruling invalidating China's claims in Beijing.
“Huwag ho kayong maniwala na, for example, Del Rosario and itong si Justice Carpio na mahina ang dating ko na hindi ko ginawa iyong arbitral award as a leverage. Alam mo in the presence of General Esperon and General Lorenza, harap-harapan, minukha ko talaga sila. Hindi ako iyong palaboy-laboy na this is my arbitral, what can we do about this?” he said.
“Kung sabihin nila na wala akong ginawa sa China, you can ask the two generals, the National Security Adviser Esperon and Lorenzana. Sinabi ko talaga, ‘It’s ours. I’d like you to listen for a while.’ And I said, ‘Mr. Xi Jinping, I would insist that it is ours and I will drill oil there.’ Harap-harapan talaga,” Duterte added.
Carpio and Del Rosario have both criticized Duterte for not raising the country's arbitral win during talks with China.
Duterte said Xi warned him of dire consequences if he insisted on the Philippines claim.
“Sagot sa akin, ‘Well we are friends. We do not want to quarrel with you, according to China. We want to maintain the present warm relationship. But if you force the issue, we will go to war,’” he said.
“Ano pa ba ang sabihin ko?” he added.
Duterte said that he would only go to war if he was backed by the United States and the rest of the members of the United Nations.
“So we seek the help of America, a concerted effort of all the members of the United Nations. Are they willing to fight? Because if they are fight, we are. But kung ako lang, why would I do that? It will result in a massacre and it will destroy everything,” he added.
Aquino admin's fault
Duterte blamed the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III for not doing enough to contain China.
“Ito sina Del Rosario and the rest of the guys, itong mga dadaldal lang, where were they? If it was really ours in the beginning, it was really ours. That’s why we went to the international arbitration court. But instead of just filing a case, the Philippines should have called America for an urgent conference with the rest of the ASEAN countries claiming of that part of the vast sea there to discuss what we will do and nip it in the bud,” he said.
Duterte argued that the Philippines did not need the landmark The Hague ruling that invalidated China’s nine-dash claim of almost the entire South China Sea to stop reclamation activities.
“Even without the arbitral ruling or anything at all, the constant law of the sea is you cannot build a manmade structure irrespective of whatever laws would like to invoke,” he said.
“America would be the only superpower who would do that, to confront China, and maybe with the urging of the Philippine government. Bakit hindi nila ginawa noon? And when the arbitral ruling was laid down, they were still there,” he added.
Duterte said Del Rosario could have done more to prevent China from building a stronghold in South China Sea.
“Tapos itong wala na sila sa opisina itong si Del Rosario, daldal nang daldal. Bakit hindi mo ginawa noong panahon mo? And in the first place, why did you allow the construction to blossom into something like a garrison now, an armed garrison? I can’t fight,” he said. —JST, GMA News