Duterte, who has been accused by some quarters of not doing enough to assert the Philippines’ maritime claims, again insisted there is no way the Philippines would beat China in a war.
Philippines should just stick to talking with China — Duterte
Alexis Romero, Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) - April 23, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — After swinging from appeasement to tough talk, President Duterte has again stressed his preference for negotiations over confrontation in resolving the country’s dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte, who has been accused by some quarters of not doing enough to assert the Philippines’ maritime claims, again insisted there is no way the Philippines would beat China in a war.

He said everyone stands to lose in a war that even the Philippines’ closest ally the United States would not risk fighting.

“We can’t defeat them. So let’s stick to just talking unless you want me to say, ‘OK, I’ll attack China. Who’s with me?’” the President said at a campaign rally of PDP-Laban in Davao the other night.

“Will America join us? They can’t even resolve their problem with Iraq and Iran in the Middle East. They’ve been at war for a long time. But who won it? Nobody. Many lives were lost including those of civilians, children, the elderly and women. That’s the story,” he added.

Duterte scoffed at critics’ challenging him to visit areas in the West Philippine Sea now occupied by Chinese.

“They want me to visit it. It’s fine, it can be done just to show off. But we would all be destroyed. And my soldiers and my policemen will be massacred,” the President said.

It’s not clear if the President would bring up the West Philippine Sea issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping when they meet this week at the Second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.

Duterte claimed it was his predecessor Benigno Aquino III who did nothing to stop China’s reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

“America also did not do anything. And now that it has been completed and that there is already a camp there and there are armaments and they want me to go there,” the President said.

The President likewise lambasted former foreign affairs chief Albert del Rosario for insisting on enforcing the 2016 arbitral ruling that favored the Philippines over China on the West Philippine Sea issue.

He said China embarked on island-building activities while the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague was deliberating on the case filed by Manila against Beijing in 2013.

He also claimed the 2012 standoff at the Panatag Shoal between Chinese maritime surveillance vessels and Philippine navy ships accosting Chinese poachers triggered China’s provocative activities in the West Philippine Sea.

China has built artificial islands on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), Burgos (Gaven), Kennan (Hughes), Mabini (Johnson South) and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reefs, disputed areas located off the western province of Palawan. Critics have claimed China is militarizing the areas, a plan that they said would affect freedom of navigation in the busy sea lane.

“America did not do anything. Now it’s almost complete. It looks like a real camp. They have guns,” the President said.

After appeasing China for years, Duterte changed tone recently and asked the Asian giant to lay off the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island following reports that hundreds of Chinese ships were seen near the island.

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