Duterte says he will send warships to West PH Sea if China starts drilling for oil
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he would only send warships to “stake a claim” in the disputed West Philippine Sea if China should start drilling for oil and taking other resources from the area.
Duterte said the West Philippine Sea was no longer in the possession of the West Philippine Sea, with China ships taking over it. He said the Philippine government could only regain control of the area by force.
“I am addressing myself to the Chinese government. We want to remain friends. We want to share whatever it is. I already told you, the Chinese government: I’m not so much interested now in fishing. I don’t think there’s enough fish really to quarrel about,” he said in his regular public address “Talk to the People.”
“But when we start to mine, when we start to get whatever it is in the bowels of the China Sea, by that time, I will send my ships there. I will send my grey ships there to stake a claim,” he added.
“If you take the oil, whatever is in there, precious stones, that would be the time — because that is the time we should act on it,” the President went on.
He said drilling the oil in the West Philippine Sea and taking other resources was not “part” of his agreement with China.
“If they start drilling for oil there, I will really tell China: Is that part of our agreement? Because if it’s not part of our agreement, I’m going also to drill my oil there. If you own it, I own it,” he said, speaking partly in Filipino.
This is the first time Duterte talked on the West Philippine issue since Chinese militia vessels surrounded the Julian Felipe Reef, which is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The latest rift in the West Philippine Sea started last March 21 when the Philippine Coast Guard reported that about 220 Chinese ships were spotted in line formation near Julian Felipe Reef, which is part of the Philippine continental shelf.
The DFA filed a diplomatic protest and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana issued strongly-worded statements as the Chinese ships remained in the area despite repeated demands of the Philippine government that they leave.
On April 3, Lorenzana said that Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian would have “a lot of explaining to do” regarding the ships that remained at the reef.
However, despite the warnings and the protest, the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea reported that Chinese militia vessels — not fishing vessels as claimed by the Chinese government — had been spotted at the Julian Felipe Reef.
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