President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday reiterated that the Philippines cannot assert its rights in the disputed West Philippine Sea with China because it is like a war that the country “can never win.”
“I cannot fight China. It would be a war which I can never win […] I do not have the might,” Duterte told the Filipino community in Russia during his official visit. “We are not ready to go to war. We cannot afford it and we will not win it. And why would I sacrifice the lives?”
“They have a missile that can reach Manila in seven minutes. Would I be crazy to go to war with that kind of armaments arrayed against my country? Mahirap na mag-assert ka, kasi kung bubukuhin ka, insultuhin ka, away talaga ‘yan.”
In a landmark victory in July 2016, the Philippines won an arbitral ruling against China that invalidated Beijing’s excessive claims over nearly the entire South China Sea, including the part Manila calls as the West Philippine Sea.
However, Malacañang said the victory is “unenforceable.”
Also, Duterte lambasted the United States anew, saying they will not really come to the Philippines’ aid when war breaks out with China.
“Kinukulit ako pati itong Amerikano. Diyan ako asar. E, gusto nila pumunta ako doon to assert, sabi ko, ‘alam mo, ‘pag ginawa ko ‘yan, giyera ‘yan.’ […] One of these days, if it poses danger, sabihin ko talaga sila na ‘umalis kayo.’ You keep on egging me to find trouble as if when there is trouble, pupunta ba kayo sa amin? Are you willing to declare war against China?”
Duterte said the Philippines will have to “begin the story of war” in order to get military aid from the US, as the PHL-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) can only be enforced “if there is an aggression.”
But even Duterte’s fierce critic, military-turned-lawmaker Representative Gary Alejano has joined voices calling for the review of the nearly 70-year-old treaty, claiming that some of its provisions are “vague, non-committal” provisions.
Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in calling for a review of the treaty, said the “ambiguity or vagueness” of the MDT could not serve as deterrent to attacks against the Philippines.
“In fact, it (ambiguity) will cause confusion and chaos during a crisis,” said Lorenzana, who has been pushing for a review of the MDT. —Julia Mari Orndedo/LBG, GMA News