Amid criticisms that he had not been taking a stand on the presence of Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea, President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night said that he would send the Philippines' few warships when the country started drilling for oil and other precious resources in the bowels of the region.
In his weekly talk to the people, Duterte also lashed out at critics who wanted him to confront China over the continued presence of Chinese warships and over 200 militia boats in the country's exclusive economic zone.
"I am addressing myself to the Chinese government. We want to remain friends... I'm not so much interested in fishing. There's not enough fish to quarrel about. But when we start to mine, get whatever it is that is in the bowels of the China Sea, by that time I will send my gray ships there to stake a claim," Duterte said.
For now, Duterte said nothing would happen even if he sailed to West Philippine Sea "because we are not in the possession of the sea."
"Even if you go there and claim it, walang mangyayari, kanila talaga eh, sa isip nila kanila,” Duterte said in his televised Cabinet briefing Monday.
[Even if you go there and claim it, nothing would come out of it because in their minds, it's theirs.]
Duterte said taking control of the area would be “bloody.”
"The issue of West Philippine Sea remains a question forever until such time that we can take it back... We can retake it only by force. There is no way that we can get it back... without any bloodshed," Duterte said.
"You now the cost of war, and if we go there to find out and assert jurisdiction, it would be bloody. It would result in violence that we cannot maybe win,” he added.
Tension between the Philippines and China rose anew because of the presence of Chinese vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef. The Philippines has filed a series of diplomatic protest on this incident.
Last week, the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) reported its patrols have spotted at least six Chinese warships and 240 Chinese militia vessels scattered in the territorial waters off Kalayaan in Palawan and in the Philippines exclusive economic zone.
NTF-WPS estimated that the continued presence of Chinese fishing vessels could catch one ton of fish amounts to a conservative total of 240,000 kilograms of fish illegally taken from Philippine waters.
"These acts fall under illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing," it said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier summoned the Chinese Ambassador to the country to tackle its concerns over the presence of Chinese boats at the Julian Felipe Reef, which caused tension between the two Asian countries. —NB, GMA News