Sunday, November 11, 2018

‘Philippines not interested in war’

From the Philippine Star (Nov 12): ‘Philippines not interested in war’

President Duterte has virtually put on notice the United States, China, Australia and other counttries not to use any territory in the Philippines in case war breaks out in the South China Sea.

“The Philippines is not ready for a war. We cannot afford it and we cannot manage it,” Duterte told the crowd at the 1st Subaraw Biodiversity Festival in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan the other night.

The President particularly cited Palawan because of its strategic location in the South China Sea.

 “The island (of Palawan) is very critical and I think as a matter of foreign policy, I will not allow any country to stockpile any kind of weapon here,” he said.

Duterte said there is great risk that Palawan might get hit in a crossfire between feuding forces in the South China Sea.

“All of those (missiles and bullets) that may have misfired, they will hit Palawan. That’s the truth,” he stressed.

Duterte noted the Philippines won over China in the international arbitration court in 2016 over exclusive economic rights in some islands in the region.

China claims almost all of South China Sea including the islands and reefs in the maritime region. The UN-backed tribunal had ruled there was no legal foundation for China’s ambitions to control South China Sea.

“We have the arbitration. Whether we like to believe it or not, but some of the Cabinet members were present and I told Chinese President Xi Jinping who’s scheduled to visit the country,” Duterte said.

Duterte lamented criticisms over his lukewarm approach in implementing the arbitration ruling.

“I really bluntly said the statement to the President (Xi): ‘You know, I have also plans, among others, that I will try to dig oil in our territory’,” he said.

Duterte said he was assured by China that the matter would be resolved peacefully.

“Well you know, Mr. President, we just renewed our good relations which were interrupted,” Duterte said, quoting the Chinese leader in referring to former president Benigno Aquino III.

“So you are here, we will just have to solve it the peaceful way. We will talk about it from time to time,” Duterte said in quoting the Chinese leader.

Duterte said he was also being honest when he told the Chinese officials that the Philippines cannot afford to go to war over the arbitration ruling.

Duterte added China has been overtaken by Israeli firm, Ratio Petroleum in forging a deal for the exploration of oil in the area covering the East Palawan Basin or Area 4 of the fifth Philippine Energy Contracting Round.

“So now China has been overtaken. But I’m trying – I’m inviting the United States. And Israel… they had partnered with us for an exploratory activity,” Duterte said.

Duterte said no one could question the oil exploration agreement the Philippines has with Israel.

He said he will continue with the exploration activities in the disputed maritime area even with other countries.

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