MANILA, Philippines — After asking Beijing to act in good faith in dealing with the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte insisted on Friday night that any upcoming bilateral talks with China be based on the arbitral tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea dispute.
The president stressed this point during an hours-long meeting with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua, who flew in to Davao to talk with Duterte.
“We avoid trouble with them. Hindi pa natin kaya. Sinabi ko Mr. Ambassador, I will not talk about it but when we are in front of each other in a bilateral talk, just the two of us, then I would state my case. I have this arbitral judgment. We will not go out of the four corners of this paper, then let us talk,” the president said during his speech at the 10th anniversary celebration of the East Mindanao Command in Davao City.
“Not now, it’s not the right time to talk about it. There are so many conferences going on,” he said.
The president said, however, that he would not have China back out from the negotiations. “If China withdraws from formal talks, then it could only mean one thing,” he said.
He also said the two countries, who are rival claimants over parts of the waterway, should talk about things that would unite.
“Now, we are towards the future. Philippines is going to experience another spasm. When I do not know, but that’s for sure. So be prepared even with limited talent and capacity. We cannot really produce the missiles and things… we don’t care as long as we fight. It will come, maybe sooner than later but we have to prepare,” the president said.
If the war will come within his term, Duterte said he is ready to lead the Armed Forces as its commander-in-chief provided that he will also be wearing a camouflage uniform so he will look decent and smart.
“We also have to end our small wars here,” he said, referring to insurgencies and other concerns in Mindanao.
Duterte said he is ready to shell out funds to increase the number of soldiers, as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzo is requesting for 20,000. “I can give you 10,000 more soldiers,” he said.
“There is always the standing army to protect us. Never mind how many even if it causes imbalance in the budget. If it always good to have men there, ready to fight and die rather than not having them at all and just surrender just like a meek lamb there. That cannot be,” he said.
“So we prepare. It is up to you guys to make the projections on how to deal with it, and in the meantime, we take advantage of these windows that are open to us now,” Duterte said.
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