Duterte: This is not the time to send 'gray ships' to West Philippine Sea
This handout photo taken April 14, 2021, and received from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) April 15, Philippine coast guard personnel aboard rubber boats and displaying a Philippine flag, patrol past Chinese vessels at Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef in the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte: This is not the time to send 'gray ships' to West Philippine Sea

(Philstar.com) - April 20, 2021 - 12:11am

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte late Monday night said that the Philippines will send military ships to the West Philippine Sea over oil and minerals.

He said he would not do it over fish in those waters, saying he believes there is not a lot of fish left there anyway.

In comments he said were addressed to China, the president said: "We want to remain friends. We want to share whatever it is."

He said, however, that Navy ships will be sent if China tries to get oil, minerals, or "whatever it is in the bowels of the China Sea, sa ating oil."

"That is the time I will send my ships there. I will send my gray ships there," he said. Gray ships refer to military vessels. Coast guard ships have white hulls.

He said that if China starts drilling in the West Philippine Sea, he will tell them: "Is that part of our agreement? Because if it is not part of our agreement, I will also drill oil there."

Duterte made clear, however, that incidents like the China's navy boats chasing an ABS-CBN News team in the West Philippine Sea are not enough reason to act.

RELATED: AFP recognizes ABS-CBN reporter for West Philippine Sea coverage

Duterte: We can only retake it by force

Earlier in the address, the president again said that asserting Philippine sovereignty in the area, which China claims, will bring war.

"The issue of the West Philippines Sea remains to be a question forever until such time that you know, we can take it back. Walang iba, giyera lang," he said.

"If we promote a war against China and America...at what cost to us? Yan ang problema," he also said.

He also criticized former Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio for talking about the issue and relying on documents and papers.

"We can retake it only by force. There is no way we can get back yung tinatawag nilang (what they call the) Philippine sea without any bloodshed," Duterte said. 

Professors: Asserting sovereignty no declaration of war

Earlier Monday, a group of college and university professors called on the government to take concrete actions to stand up against China's incursion into the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The Professors for Peace pointed out that the presence of over 200 Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef and other features in the West Philippine Sea present a threat to the country's national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"We reject the argument that asserting our sovereignty, protecting our fisherfolk and managing and protecting our own natural resources constitutes a declaration of war," the Professors for Peace, at least 500 professors from different colleges and universities in the Philippines, said. 

The group also called on Beijing to uphold its commitment to the international rule of law as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

"It could result in a violence that we cannot maybe win," Duterte said Monday night.

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