MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has told China to back off from the Pag-asa Island amid reports that hundreds of Chinese vessels have “swarmed” the island, also known as Thitu, in the West Philippine Sea.
Speaking at PDP-Laban’s campaign rally in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on Thursday night, Duterte said he will not allow China to occupy Pag-asa Island, which has long been held by Manila.
“I assure you, unless China wants a war with us, eh ‘di ako papayag kung pati ‘yung Pagasa i-occupy nila? No, of course not,” he said.
“I’m trying to tell China, Pag-asa [island] is ours. We have been there [since] 1974. Kung inyo ‘yan, bakit hindi ninyo kami pinaalis?” he added.
Duterte, who has been aiming to attract trade and investment from the Asian economic giant, has mostly withheld his criticism of China’s expansive claims in the West Philippine Sea.
But his rare remark against Beijing came after the Philippine Military warned that hundreds of Chinese coast guard and fishing vessels were spotted in the disputed waterway in the first quarter of 2019. The vessels were described as “suspected maritime militia.”
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs in a statement called the presence of Chinese ships near the Pag-asa island a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
“This is not a warning, this is just a word of advice to my friends kasi kaibigan tayo ng China,” Duterte said.
“I will not plead or beg, but I’m just telling you that layoff the Pag-asa because may mga sundalo ako diyan,” he added.
But if Beijing touches the island, Duterte said he is prepared to order his soldiers to suit up for a dangerous mission.
“At ‘pag ‘yan ang ginalaw ninyo, ibang istorya na ‘yan. ‘Di sabihin ko na ‘yang mga sundalo ko, ‘prepare for suicide missions’,” he said.
Duterte has repeatedly said before that war with China would be futile and that the Philippines would lose heavily and suffer in the process.
The President, however, assured he is prepared to reach for a compromise with China and that there is no need for the Philippines to use force against its more powerful neighbor.
“We go into a compromise for the time being, kasi hindi nga, if we go to war or there is a violent conflict, we would never win and I would suffer beyond imagination. I would just go there send my soldiers and policemen to be slaughtered. I am not prepared to do that,” Duterte said.
Beijing, for its part, has downplayed the rising tension in the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea, saying that both sides had exchanged amicable and constructive views on the issue.
“During the meetings,both sides exchanged views in a frank, friendly and constructive manner on the issues which each side is concerned about, such as the recent situation in the South China Sea and maritime activities,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang in an interview during the 4th Bilateral Consultation Mechanism meet between the Philippines and China held in Manila.
“Both sides proactively discussed ways to resolve these issues. Both sides reiterated that they wanted to continue to expand cooperation and discuss measures to promote trust,” he added. —Robie de Guzman (with details from Rosalie Coz)
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte maintained that he will raise the arbitral ruling that favors the Philippines in the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea when he visits China next week.
Duterte is scheduled to fly to China for a working visit from August 28 to September 3.
He will meet Chinese president Xi Jinping and talk about the Hague ruling, the code of conduct, as well as the proposed joint oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea.
“So whether you like it or not, would it make you happy or not, angry or otherwise. Sorry, but we have to talk the arbitral ruling, then what we get, if there is a start of the exploration and extraction of whatever there is in the bowels of the earth,” the President said during the inauguration of the 7.5 megawatt peak solar power project in the municipality of Odiongan, Tablas Island in Romblon on Wednesday (August 21).
“The proposal of 60-40 in our favor, would be a good start. I hope it would graduate to something like towards how do we solve the arbitral ruling peacefully,” he added.
The event was the President’s first public engagement after being out of the public eye for more than a week. – MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)
A Chinese national working at Britain’s Hong Kong consulate has been detained in China’s border city of Shenzhen for violating the law, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Wednesday (August 21), likely worsening already strained ties between Beijing and London.
Simon Cheng did not return to work on Aug. 9 after visiting the neighbouring mainland city of Shenzhen the previous day, Hong Kong news website HK01 reported.
Cheng’s family confirmed his disappearance in a Facebook post on Tuesday (August 20) night, saying he travelled from Hong Kong to Shenzhen on the morning of Aug. 8 for a business trip.
Speaking at a daily news briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Cheng had been detained for 15 days by Shenzhen police for violating public security management regulations, though he gave no details.
“He is not a UK citizen. In other words that means he’s Chinese, so it’s entirely an internal matter for China,” Geng said.
“We’ve made stern representations to Britain for the series of comments and actions they’ve made on Hong Kong,” he added.
Britain has said it is “extremely concerned” by reports that the staff member at the consulate in its former colony had been detained.
Hong Kong has been gripped by anti-government protests in recent weeks, with Beijing accusing Britain and other Western countries of meddling in its affairs. (Reuters)
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