AMID criticism of his position on the country’s ongoing dispute with China on the West Philippine Sea, presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte clarified that he will not compromise on the country’s claims in the South China Sea.
“I have told you before, that piece of water there is ours. China should understand that. I will never, ever surrender sovereignty over that area,” Duterte said at a campaign rally in Cainta on Friday, a day after he said he will abandon the country’s multilateral approach to the dispute.
“If the negotiation is not being done, or it is in still waters until now, maybe three years from now, I have to talk. You know, you have a problem, you have to make deals,” he said.
“We will not insist on the ownership for the simple reason that we cannot enforce our desire to own,” Duterte added.
Duterte said China should not insist on its supposed “ownership” of the disputed areas and if they stop talking about sovereignty, he would also “shut up” and instead pursue a tack of “joint exploration” with China.
“Do not talk about ownership and I will not make a noise. For the six years that I’m president I’ll shut up,” he said.
But Duterte’s camp has also declared that Duterte fully supports the arbitration case questioning China’s occupation of areas in the West Philippine Sea filed with the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration which is based in The Hague, Netherlands.
“As a Filipino, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte fully supports the case now pending in The Hague questioning China’s occupation of areas in the West Philippine Sea that the Philippines considers its territory. He is hopeful for a favorable ruling for the Philippines,” Duterte media group head Peter Laviña said.
“The mayor believes the Philippines should continue to work closely with other countries towards finding a solution to the issue,” he added.
However, if this multilateral approach proves to be inadequate to resolve the issue, the PDP-Laban standard bearer is willing to explore other options including direct talks with China.
“Mr. Duterte further believes that any military conflict involving the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea should not happen as it will derail Philippine economic growth,” Lavina added.