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Duterte: Philippines won't withdraw ships from West PHL Sea

President Rodrigo Duterte has declared that the Philippines will not pull out its ships in the West Philippine Sea despite the country's "debt of gratitude" to China, saying he is willing to die to defend his position

"Mga barko natin, nandiyan sa Pag-asa island [Our ships in Pag-asa Island]... we will not move an inch, but we will not go to war with China," Duterte said in a taped message aired on Friday.

"May utang na loob tayo sa China. Malaki. Buhay ang naitulong nila sa atin [We owe a lot to China, including lives]," he added.

Though not mentioned by Duterte in the taped message, the Chinese government has donated at least one million doses of Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines. This was on top of the 25 million Sinovac doses that the Philippine government bought from China.

"It's not wrong to admit na inferior ka in terms of might and power. Hindi naman masama magprangka ka, ito lang talaga ang kakayanan ko. Pero huwag mo naman akong kayahin. Ngayon, hindi talaga ako aatras. Patayin mo man ako kung patayin mo ako, dito ako. Dito magtatapos ang ating pagkakaibigan," Duterte said.

(It is not wrong to admit inferiority in terms of might and power; that this is everything we have got. But they should not push us around. Even if you kill me, I will stay put. And that would be the end of our friendship.)

"Kaya ako sabihin ko sa China ngayon, I am not ready to withdraw. I do not want a quarrel, I do not want trouble, I respect your position and you respect mine. But we will not go to war," Duterte added.

(I am telling China now, we are not ready to withdraw.)

Duterte then called on China to understand the Philippines' position.

"Sana maintindihan niyo ang bayan namin. Kung hindi, magkakaroon ng problema [I hope China would understand our position otherwise there would be problems]," he said.

The President, however, expressed doubts if the United Nations could really help the Philippines in defending its legal claims in the West Philippine Sea.

"Kailan pa ba naging useful ang United Nations? Puro papel. Hindi niyo alam eh, nasa taas kayo [When was the United Nations of any use? They're all papers. They're clueless up there]," he said.

The Philippines and China agreed to simultaneously pull out their respective vessels from Scarborough shoal, a traditional fishing ground in West Philippine Sea, back in 2012 after a prolonged standoff between two parties.

The United States brokered the agreement to deescalate the situation. However,  only the Philippines retreated from the shoal.

Critics have accused Duterte of belittling the Philippines' victory in the case it filed before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, which rejected China's massive claim of sovereignty in the entire South China Sea. The court also outlawed China's aggression against Filipino fisherfolk in Scarborough Shoal.

China, which refused to participate in the tribunal's proceedings, did not accept the ruling.

Despite a series of diplomatic protests, hundreds of Chinese ships, including militia vessels, remain scattered in the West Philippine Sea. --KBK, GMA News