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Duterte: Philippines owes debt of gratitude to ‘good friend’ China

Amid the continued Chinese incursions at the West Philippine Sea, President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said it will not wage war against China because the Philippines owes it a huge debt of gratitude.

In a televised address on pandemic response, Duterte cited China's donation of Sinovac vaccines, which was used during the launch of the country's immunization program against COVID-19.

"Sabi ko, I am stating for the record, we don’t want war with China. China is a good friend, mayroon tayong  utang na loob na marami, pati na yung bakuna natin. So China, let it be known China is a good friend and we don’t want trouble with them especially with war," said Duterte.

Duterte further said authorities will observe first China's actions within the Philippines exclusive economic zone.

"But there are things that are not subject to compromise kagaya yung ginawang pag-atras-atras. Mahirap po yan, sana they will understand but I have the interest of my country to protect. It might not be an armed might but it is a claim of sovereignty which I cannot, 'yan nandyan na 'yon," the Chief Executive said.

"Tignan natin kung anong gawain natin at ginawa nila. Let us compare it to evolving na nangyayari pa. Now, let's see what happens.  China must understand that if need be, we will be. I don't know what will happen next," he added.

US is 'all talk'

The 76-year-old leader also slammed the United States, claiming that the Western country failed to help the Philippine Coast Guard to assert sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.

He made the remark after he slammed former Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario on losing the country's claims in the disputed waters.

"Ako sabihin ko China, you know China... We can always call Americans but in so many instances puro salita lang that could have been a moment to show the world that they are with us by sending their superior ships. Bakit hindi nila ginawa?" Duterte said.

Despite Duterte's claims, the United States previously said it is waiting for the Philippines' signal to ask help over the swarmed Chinese militia ships in the Philippines' EEZ.  

Last April, the US Navy Strike Group also arrived at the South China Sea in the wake of at least 220 Chinese ships that swarmed near the Julian Felipe Reef, which is within Philippines' territorial claims.

Latest developments showed that Chinese vessels were still occupying islands covering the Philippines exclusive economic zone. 

Even after facing multiple diplomatic protests, China dismissed the 2016 ruling that favored Philippines' claims at the South China Sea. Chinese government also said it is completely normal for its ships to enter the Julian Felipe Reef, saying it is part of the Nansha Islands.—LDF, GMA News