President Duterte said he was more inclined to settle for now with the economic gains in the West Philippine Sea that he negotiated with China instead of waging war against the giant neighbor over the South China Sea dispute.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, Duterte reiterated that setting aside the 2016 Hague Ruling could mean economic gains for the Philippines. He said this was better than the possible destruction of the country.
“Kung hindi lang muna ako makakuha, ‘di man lang kita makaya, eh ‘di maglamanon na lang tayo. Sabi mo, iyo yan. Sabi ko, akin yan. O sige bigyan mo ako. Ano pa ba gusto mo, tapos mag-gegiyera pa ako (If I cannot get it from you because I won’t stand a chance, then let’s just agree on something. We both claim it’s ours. Then just give me something. Do you want me to go to war)?” he said.
“I will tell you the destruction of the Philippines in such a case, in a matter of minutes. I said the jet planes can carry the atomic bomb and reach Manila in seven minutes. Tapos tayo (We will be done) in seven minutes,” he added.
In September, Duterte said Chinese President Xi Jinping promised that the Philippines would get 60 percent of whatever oil and gas resources that would be found in the disputed waters in a joint exploration.
“Set aside your claim. Then allow everybody connected with the Chinese companies. They want to explore and if there is something…” Duterte said on September 10.
“Sabi nila (They said), ‘We would be gracious enough to give you 60 percent.’ Forty lang ang kanila (They will only get 40). That is the promise of Xi Jinping,” he added.
The President said that this would include the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) since it was part of the Hague Ruling.
“Kasi ‘yang (The) exclusive economic zone is part of the Arbitral Ruling which we will ignore to come up with an economic activity,” Duterte said.
However, Duterte said that this does not mean that the Philippines is conceding its claim on the disputed waters.
“No. You cannot — you cannot abandon the [claim]… Nandiyan ‘yan. Pero (It’s there already. But) how to — how to claim back that property because of the Arbitral Ruling — the only way to retake is to declare war. Go there and sink all their ships,” he said.
Duterte earlier admitted that he was not satisfied with Xi’s response when he raised the matter of the 2016 Arbitral Ruling during their bilateral meeting in Beijing late August. However, he said he did not insist on it because he knew Xi had a lot in mind, particularly the protests in Hong Kong.
The President even jested that Xi may just slap him if he will keep on going to China to talk about the Hague ruling.
Duterte then said that he will ask the Filipino people about what the next move would be because going to war with China is still not an option. If it was, he said he needed the approval of Congress.
“The option is, kung atin, kunin natin. Kunin natin (if it’s ours, we go get it), but are we ready to go to war? I declare war? I will go to Congress. I will ask their permission. I will go there. I will ask that they assemble jointly and allow me five minutes to talk about it,” he said last week.
“I don’t know if there was any member of Congress present there when Xi Jinping said ‘We will not budge.’ So what’s the next? Your question is as good as mine. Ano ang gawin natin (What should we do)? What is the next step? Seize the property? By what means? On bended knees? Ay nako (My goodness),” he added.