Duterte says he wants Philippines to remain neutral in Russia-Ukraine conflict

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Duterte says he wants Philippines to remain neutral in Russia-Ukraine conflict
In this Nov. 10, 2018 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte discusses matters with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their bilateral meeting at the Vinpearl Da Nang Resort and Villas in Da Nang City, Vietnam.
Presidential photo / Albert Alcain, File photo

MANILA, Philippines  — Days after the Philippines backed a United Nations resolution condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Duterte said the Philippines would stay neutral on the conflict even as he expressed hope that the parties involved would refrain from using nuclear weapons.

Duterte said all countries would be affected if nuclear weapons are used in the crisis, which has claimed the lives of thousands of people and is threatening the global economic recovery from the pandemic.

"I just pray to God that this will not really go out of control. I already told you, maybe, probably you might have heard me on TV, that if it is not put under control, the world is in danger. Once they start to push the button of nuclear warheads or nuclear bomb, well, as one commentator said, it will melt the world," Duterte said during the inauguration of the Narvacan Farmers' Market in Ilocos Sur last Friday.

"Ako naman (For me), we stay neutral. But reality tells me that in the end, we’ll just have to select which side we would be," he added.

Duterte cited the impact of what he described as a "primitive bomb" in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the second world war.

"In Hiroshima, that was a primitive bomb, Nagasaki, it destroyed posts, flattened to the ground. What if they release 1,000 of that?" the president said.

Duterte also described Russian President Vladimir Putin as "suicidal"

"I made a statement six years ago before I became a president. I was asked about Russia... I said, the Americans will never stomach death and destruction. They are afraid," the president said.

"I said the Americans will not but you watch out for Putin, he is suicidal... Kaya ‘pag mapahiya siya dito, magwawala ‘yan (If he loses face, he would run amuck). And I realized it when I went to Russia. I had a talk with him on all aspects of life, a long time ago. He said, 'Are we friends?' I said, 'I have no quarrel with you,'" he added.

Last Monday, the Philippines voted in favor of a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during an emergency session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

“The Philippines votes ‘Yes’ to the UNGA resolution and expresses explicit condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine. No one can trust news reports of casualties on either side but 14,000 have been killed since 2014,” the country's statement read.

Malacañang has urged Ukraine and Russia to forge an agreement that would prevent the crisis from escalating into a "conflagration that could engulf a world still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic." It also called for an "immediate end to the unnecessary loss of life" and called on world leaders to work together to attain lasting peace.

'No to foreign troops in Philippines'

Duterte reiterated that he does not want foreign military troops in the Philippines, saying their presence could lead to a conflict. He said he had threatened to recall the Visiting Forces of Agreement with the US after the American government canceled the visa of his ally, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa. The president recalled his decision to scrap the deal, a decision that Malacañang claimed was "based on upholding the Philippines' strategic core interests."

"But I’ll be frank with you, we have no choice...They are all here and we cannot drive them away, not at this time. They won’t go out, that’s silly. So you have the unrestricted use of our assets, whatever, be it land. We cannot do anything," Duterte said.

"You know, there’s a saying ...'The hottest place in hell is reserved for a man facing a critical issue to remain neutral'...So we will have to take sides in name only. But if Americans leave, that would be better for me," he added.  

Duterte said he and other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have been invited by US President Joe Biden to attend a summit on March 28 but it was unclear if he would accept the invitation.

"I do not hate the people. I have a child who is an American citizen. My wife was an OFW (overseas Filipino worker) in America. I bore a child... But perhaps, you already heard many times over TV that I just don’t like the arrogance of the Americans," he said.

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