DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 February) — The Philippines will maintain a “neutral” position in the bid for global dominance by China and US but warned them to recognize Philippines’ jurisdiction over the exclusive economic zone or he “will order the navy to fire” at intruders.
“But just the same, we cannot fight America, just like China. I’ll just keep quiet. But if you get something there from the economic zone, I will order the Navy to fire,” the President said in a press conference at the Matina Enclaves last Friday.
He said the government would rather focus on addressing the fundamental problems in the country, including the repatriation of distressed Filipinos in Kuwait, than meddle in the issues of the rival superpowers.
Duterte said the country will continue to talk with China and that this is not the time to be fighting over West Philippines Sea, also known as South China Sea, because it would only lead to war.
“Now, China is playing it right at this time. That is the reality of geopolitics. Hindi naman tayo ang kalaban niya, kalaban niya America. (We are not the enemy of China, its enemy is America.) They are competing for a world superpower in the next centuries to come. Huwag tayong makisali diyan (Let’s not get involved),”
Duterte said the country will assert ownership over Benham Rise because it is within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic and there is “a theory of geography, geopolitics included, that we can rightfully claim the continental shelf because it is part of the land mass which is under the sea, where you see the land base.”
In a press briefing on February 8, Presidential spokesperson Harry S. Roque confirmed China issued a statement acknowledging the sovereign rights of the Philippines over Benham Rise, renamed Philippine Rise, as it ended its expedition there for scientific research.
However, Roque refused to comment on reports that China is expanding its artificial islands in the South China Sea until the Palace receives officials reports from the Department of Foreign Affairs.”
But Duterte said he will hold on to the commitment of China that there will be “no construction” on Spratly Islands.
“They assured us. They assured me so I will hold China to that commitment. And we will remain loyal in our commitments,” Duterte said.
“Now, if you can claim a whole of an ocean, do not mess up with me with my economic zone here. Nawala na nga dito eh, eh ‘di kukunan mo pa ‘di parang pinutol mo na ang dalawang kamay ko (you’ve already taken one side, you would also take the other side. It’s like you cut my both arms),” he added. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)