Duterte won’t allow China to take over Pag-asa Island
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday assured that he will not allow China to occupy the Philippine-held Pag-asa Island amid the reported surge of vessels from a Chinese fishing fleet around the area.
“Pag-asa Island belongs to us. Is that ‘yung base natin? China would never do that, I assure you unless China wants a war with us. Hindi ako papayag kung pati ‘yung Pag-asa i-occupy nila (I will not allow them to occupy Pag-asa),” Duterte told reporters in an interview in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
Earlier, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it has monitored a surge in the number of Chinese vessels around Pag-asa Island this year.
The AFP Western Command said the vessels are part of the China maritime militia.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jinhua, however, claimed that the Chinese vessels seen near the island were not armed.
READ: Chinese sea militia swarms around Pag-asa Island – military
Duterte is convinced that the incident in Pag-asa Island has “something to do with the greater game of geopolitics. And it is not directed to us.”
“And I assure you that if they kill or arrest people there who are Filipinos, then that would be the time that we will have to decide on what to do,” the President stressed.
Duterte, however, reiterated that the Philippines could not afford to wage war with the Asian powerhouse.
“If we go to war or there is a violent conflict, we would never win and I would suffer beyond imagination. I would just go there send my soldiers and policemen to be slaughtered. I am not prepared to do that,” he said.
Asked how the government would deal with China, Duterte said he would have to reach a compromise with Chinese government.
“We drive them away by force, can we do that? Unless we want to commit suicide. If you go to war, the first step of China would be to launch its missile. In 7 minutes, it will land in Manila. We go into a compromise for the time being because if we go to war, if there is violent conflict, we would never win and I would suffer beyond imagination,” said Duterte. / gsg
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