Duterte on sea claims: I am inutile on that matter | Inquirer News
SOUTH CHINA SEA DISPUTE

Duterte on sea claims: I am inutile on that matter

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 04:42 AM July 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday admitted he was “inutile’’ in wresting control of islets in the West Philippine Sea from China “which is in possession of the property.’’

In his fifth State of the Nation Address before a joint Congress, Duterte said the Philippines could not afford to go to war with a military giant like China which has sweeping claims over the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

“China is claiming it. We are claiming it. China has the arms, we don’t have it. So? it’s as simple as that. They are in possession of the property,’’ he said, referring to the disputed area in the South China Sea where China has built artificial islands to house military outposts.

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“China is in possession. So what can we do? We have to go to war and I can’t afford it. Maybe some other President can, but I cannot. I’m inutile on that matter, I tell you. And I’m willing to admit it. I cannot do anything,’’ he told lawmakers at the Batasan Pambansa complex.“The moment I send my Marines there at the coastal shores of Palawan, they haven’t even set sail, they get blown up.’’

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On the fourth anniversary of the July 2016 arbitral tribunal award in the South China Sea that voided China’s claims in adjacent waters, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. called on Beijing to abide by the ruling. His Chinese counterpart later held talks with him to smooth things out.

Since the military option is out of the question, the President said it would be better to “treat it as a diplomatic endeavor.’’

Otherwise, he claimed that the government was working “without fail to protect our rights in the South China Sea, neither beholden or a pawn to anyone.”

“We broaden the boundaries of Philippine diplomacy. We build productive ties with everyone willing to engage us on the basis of equality and mutual respect,’’ he said.

Toward the end of his nearly two-hour-long national address, Duterte said he had read about the United States’ plan to return to its former naval base in Subic, Zambales province, and that he was rejecting such a plan.

“I’ll just put on record my thoughts. I have nothing against America, I have nothing against China. If you put bases here, you double the spectacle of a most destructive … just like in Manila in the second World War,’’ he said, referring to the devastation wrought on Manila during World War II.

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TAGS: Rodrigo Duterte, SONA 2020

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