MANILA, Philippines — “In due time.”
President Rodrigo Duterte said this Monday as he touched the issue on the country’s sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea in his fourth State of the Nation Address at the Batasang Pambansa.
“Of course we will do, in due time,” said Duterte on enforcing the historical arbitral ruling, which favored the Philippines and invalidated China’s nine-dash line that claims almost all of the South China Sea including the West Philippine Sea.
He noted that asserting the country’s rights at this point would result in war.
“A shooting war is grief and misery multiplier. War leaves widows and orphans in its wake,” he said.
“I am not ready or inclined for the occurrence of more destruction of more widows and more orphans should war, even on a limited scale, break out,” he added.
The President maintained he would continue to engage China in diplomatic negotiations over Manila’s sea dispute with Beijing.
“More and better resource can be reached in the privacy of a conference room than in the squabble in the public. That is why I will do in the peaceful way, mindful of the fact that it is a national pride and territorial integrity that are at stake,” he noted.
Duterte has earlier earned a sharp rebuke for saying he was allowing Chinese fishermen to trawl in the Philippines exclusive economic zone.
“When I said ‘I allowed,’ that was on the premise that I own the property pero hindi tayo in control of the property,” he said.
“Short of expressly advocating a call to arms, there are those who say that we should stand up and stop those who fish in our economic zone. Of course, we will do, in due time,” he added.
He again mentioned the warning of Chines President Xi Jinping that there would be trouble if the Philippines presses its claims in the South China Sea.
“If the word ‘trouble’ comes from the mouth of a president of a republic, ano’ng magawa ko? So what did I answer? ‘Well then maybe, Sir, we can talk about this in some other time. But definitely, before I go we must talk about the West Philippine Sea. We cannot, you know, have our cake and eat it, too’,” he said.
Duterte also said he could not just send the government’s coast guard to repulse the Chinese ships from the disputed sea.
“You know I cannot go there even to bring the Coast Guard to drive them away. China also claims the property and he is in possession. ‘Yan ang problema. Sila yung in possession and claiming all the resources there as an owner,” he said.
“Ipadala ko ‘yung marines ko to drive a way the Chinese fishermen. I guarantee you, not one of them will come home alive,” he added.