Duterte warns China: Buildup to prompt US bases’ return in PH
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Mayor Rodrigo Duterte admits he is not especially fond of America but he renews his call for world powers, especially the United States, to get involved in resolving the Philippine row with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Duterte on Monday night told reporters he would rather talk with the Chinese than with the Americans, but warned that if China continued to “stretch its territory farther,” the Philippines would get the help of the Americans to fight them off Philippine territory.
Duterte was reacting to recent reports that China has been building an airstrip in the Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan Reef) within the Philippine’s exclusive economic zone.
“I can talk more candidly with the Chinese than with Americans,” Duterte said, calling the Americans “arrogant” because of the unsolved case of Michael Meiring, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent facing charges in Davao city for a 2002 bomb explosion in a downtown hotel, but was scuttled out of Davao City reportedly by the FBI.
“But if China continues to make trouble, there’s no other recourse for the Philippines but to seek the help of its ally, the United States,” Duterte said.
“So, I’m telling China, do not stretch your territorial boundary further. Do not shoo away Filipino fishers because they’ve been there for a long while,” he said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines released Monday new photos of the reclamation projects being done by Beijing in islets and atolls which are already well within the country’s 200-kilometer Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The AFP said the reclamation has destroyed coral reefs with total damage placed at $100 million.
Vessels belonging to the Chinese Coast Guard reportedly used water cannons on small Filipino fishing boats, which sailed in the country’s traditional fishing waters.
China is apparently turning coral reefs in the area into airstrips and small ports capable of handling military aircraft and ship, a move which has created tension among other claimant countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan and even Malaysia.
Duterte earlier pointed out that China’s imaginary 9-dash line, stretching from its territorial waters deep into the West Philippine Sea and the international waters has been violating the territorial rights of smaller countries.
“This is no longer just about the small atolls owned by the Philippines, which are now being occupied by China. This is already an international issue because China’s 9-dash territorial sea claim in the vast South China Sea will restrict the movement of international shipping and trade and commerce,” Duterte explained.
He said the 9-dash Line that China has drawn in the South China Sea would effectively close the international sea lanes to other countries.
In Palawan months earlier, Duterte prescribed three strategies to approach the problem with China, namely: for the Philippines to continue its appeal for arbitration with the United Nations; for the Philippines to engage China in bilateral negotiations; and if these two failed, for the next President of the Philippines to take “more assertive action” to defend the country’s sovereignty.
Duterte said that in geopolitics, no one else could fight the Chinese but the Americans, but if that were to happen, Duterte expressed fear the US bases would return in Clark and Subic, which were dismantled in 1991, when the Philippine Senate in a historic vote of 12 to 11 voted to reject the new 10-year US Bases Treaty.
“If they will stretch our patience, we don’t have any other recourse but seek the help of the Americans,” Duterte said.
“We can’t fight a war with China because we don’t have arms, so, we’ll be forced to ask the help of the United States because that’s the only force that has the capability to fight the Chinese, but we don’t want to do that, that’s why we’re asking the Chinese not to make any trouble,” he said. SFM/AC
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