Duterte order vs joining South China Sea drills meant to avoid tensions â Palace
This US Navy photo obtained Oct. 28, 2016 shows the guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance (DDG 111), front, and USS Decatur (DDG 73) and the Military Sealift Command fleet oiler USNS Carl Brashear (T-AO 7) as they steam in formation in the Pacific Ocean following a joint exercise with the US Air Force 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron from Anderson Air Force Base, Guam,on October 27, 2016. Spruance and Decatur and the guided-missile destroyer USS Momsen (DDG 92), along with embarked “Warbirds” and “Devilfish” detachments of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 49, are deployed in support of maritime security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific as part of a US 3rd Fleet Pacific Surface Action Group (PAC SAG) under Commander, Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 31.
PO 2nd Class Will GASKILL / US Navy Media Content Operations/AFP

Duterte order vs joining South China Sea drills meant to avoid tensions — Palace

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - August 5, 2020 - 12:45pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte's order against taking part in joint maritime drills in the South China Sea was in line with his independent foreign policy and was meant to avoid tensions with other countries, Malacañang said Tuesday.

"That has been the policy of the president. Under his independent foreign policy, we are friends with everyone. We do not have enemies," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing.

"What the president said was if there are actions by superpowers that would result in greater tensions, we have to avoid such actions," he added.

Last Monday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed that Duterte has barred the Navy from joining naval exercises in the South China Sea, except those that will be conducted in the Philippines' national waters.

The Duterte administration has been trying to improve the Philippines' ties with China but critics are worried that the policy may compromise Manila's maritime claims in the South China Sea. Officials have given assurances that the president won't surrender the Philippines maritime rights. They have also maintained that the maritime row does not constitute the totality of the relationship between Manila and Beijing.  

During his fifth state of the nation address last month, Duterte admitted that he could not do much when it comes to the dispute.

"They (China) are in possession of the property... So what can we do? We have to go to war and I cannot afford it. Maybe some other president can but I cannot. Inutil ako diyan, sabihin ko sa inyo (I am useless on that, I tell you). And I'm willing to admit it: Talagang inutil ako diyan (I'm really useless on that)," the president said.

"Now, plenty of critics, both sides, claim (that) nothing has been done to retake forcefully or physically the South China Sea. You know, unless we are prepared to go to war, I would suggest that you better just call off and treat it as a diplomatic endeavor. China is claiming it. We are claiming it. China has the arms, we do not have it. So? It's simple as that," he added. 

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