DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 02 May) — Coming soon: joint military exercises between the Philippines and China, in Mindanao.
President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to have joint exercises with China “here in Mindanao, maybe in the Sulu Sea.”
Duterte gave this response when asked by reporters if he was looking at joint exercises with China, after his visit to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s navy flagship-destroyer Chang Chun at the Sasa international port here on Monday afternoon.
“Yes, I said I agree. We can have a joint exercise here in Mindanao, maybe in the Sulu Sea,” Duterte replied.
No follow-up question, however, was asked after Duterte responded to the query.
Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II welcomed the President’s announcement. He told MindaNews in a text message on Tuesday: “Pag sinabi ni Presidente, papayag kami. Alam naman namin lahat ng gagawin ng Presidente ay makakabuti sa Mindanao” (If the President says so, we will comply. We all know that whatever the President does is for the good of Mindanao).
His father, the former Governor Abdusakur Tan, described it as a “bright idea.”
“That is a bright idea. We want the Chinese to come to Sulu.” He recalled the good relations between the Sultanate of Sulu and China and that in fact there is a Sultan of Sulu buried in China, Sultan Batara who died in 1417. “He was invited by the Emperor of Cathay. He died there and is the only foreign monarch buried in Chinese soil,” the elder Tan said.
The President was clearly impressed by what he saw inside China’s flagship destroyer.
“Very impressive. It’s clean and even the carpeting, it’s all carpeted inside and it’s like a hotel actually,” Duterte said.
“I will try to make something like this … it has to be as beautiful as this. Ito carpeted, wala kang — hindi na kailangan — anti-slide ha.” He meant the floor is not slippery because it is carpeted.
“Wala kang makitang oil (You won’t see grease). It’s all carpeted after carpet. Oo. Napakaganda. (Yes. It’s so beautiful). Inside, it’s like a luxury hotel,” the President added.
Asked if the goodwill visit of China’s flagship destroyer and two other warships here is the start of a series of cooperation between the Philippines and the Chinese military, Duterte said yes. He said it is part of the “confidence-building and goodwill and to show that we are friends.”
“That’s why I welcomed them here and I was the one who asked, ‘you show me your warships,'” the President said.
A day before boarding the Chinese warship, Duterte was criticized for his Chairman’s Report on the recently-concluded ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit which allegedly toned down security concerns over China’s “reclamation activities and apparent militarization” in the South China Sea and for not mentioning the landmark UN arbitral ruling the Philippines won against China.
Duterte before the ASEAN Summit, had said he would not raise the issue of the UN arbitral ruling because “it is not an issue here…. it’s only between China and the Philippines.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)