BEIJING – President Duterte may have decided to stop the war exercises between the Philippines and the US, but he is also not keen on pursuing a military alliance with China or with any other country “to avoid adding fuel” to what he described as a “volatile” world.
Duterte also ruled out discussions on joint oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea during his four-day state visit here.
In a press briefing, the President said the Philippines would not meddle in brewing conflict among some countries because it would not promote anything positive.
“There will be no military alliances entered into. There will be no military alliances broken. What I am just saying is that we are not interested in adding fuel to what is already a volatile world,” he said.
“There is no such thing as allowing the missiles here or missiles there, I would not allow it,” Duterte said yesterday when asked if he would forge a military alliance with China.
“I am not into that. And if you talk about America, Russia, vis-à-vis China, Great Britain, France, Iran, Pakistan, India, there is a conflict going on, it’s getting hot,” he added.
Duterte said he believes there is no point in acquiring powerful bombs or missiles as an international conflict could “end the world.”
“Why should I borrow missiles or ask for nuclear bomb? For what? They were just crazy people who would want to pull a stack on a matter of national pride,” the Philippine leader said.
“And if you think that if those nuclear bombs will explode at the same time, then we might not be able to board our last men out of China because it will just simply end the world,” he added.
Early this month, Duterte said he would end the joint military drills with US forces after American officials called him out for the spate of killings tied to his brutal war on drugs.
He said he has no plan to cut alliances with the US but maintained that the Philippines should follow a more independent foreign policy.
Early this month, Duterte expressed doubts on the importance of military alliances, which he believes would no longer matter in the age of advanced weapons.
“I do not mean to cancel or abrogate the military alliances but let me ask you: do you really think we need it? If there is a war, if we engage in skirmishes, do you think we really need America?” Duterte said in a speech delivered last Oct. 11.
“Do we need China and Russia – for that matter, do we need somebody? If they fight, if they launch ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) or Poseidon (either a type of US military aircraft or a discontinued US ballistic missile), there will be no more American aid to talk of. There will no more be a country strong enough to rule,” he added.
“When that time comes, we won’t need anything but a priest. If you want, you can recite the mi ultimo adios (National hero Dr. Jose Rizal’s ‘My Last Farewell’).”
Duterte said he would rather go for alliances that would promote the health, education and the welfare of the next generation.
President Duterte receives an architect’s perspective and blueprint of the proposed drug addiction treatment center to be donated by the Friends of the Philippines Foundation during a lunch meeting at Dadong Roast Duck Restaurant in Beijing yesterday.
Duterte also said the issue on joint oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea would not be discussed during his four-day state visit here.
He explained he is not authorized to discuss the issue because the sharing of resources requires the approval of Congress and “every Filipino involved.”
“No, I don’t think that will be right,” the President said when asked whether he would bring up joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea in his meetings with Chinese leaders.
“If you plan to give up something or if you try to share what you have if it is really yours, then you cannot talk about it openly on your own. This has to be with the consent of Congress and everybody, every Filipino involved in town,” he added.
“So at this time, I am not empowered to do that, I cannot give something and I cannot also add what has not been given me.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. echoed the President’s position, saying it is not the time to discuss the issue.
“We’re not talking about joint exploration. This is not the time to talk about joint exploration. We’re just simply talking about how we can improve better ties with China without eroding or compromising our disputes, which is just a small portion of our relationship with China,” Yasay said in a separate interview.
Earlier reports said officials of the Duterte administration and the Chinese government are in talks to forge a deal that would allow them to jointly explore oil or natural gas in the West Philippine Sea. According to the report, the deal is being finalized and may first cover uncontested areas.
While the joint exploration of oil and gas is not in the agenda of his state visit, Duterte said he would mention the issue on the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal to Chinese leaders “in passing.”
“It’s (issue) very important because it’s livelihood. We’ll not talk hard on who owns what because that is contested,” Duterte said.
He had announced he would ask Chinese leaders to allow Filipino fishermen to enter the shoal, which is located 124 nautical miles from Zambales. Chinese ships took control of the shoal in 2012 after a standoff with the Philippine Navy and have since maintained presence in the area.
Although well within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone, Panatag Shoal is covered by China’s nine-dash line, a territorial claim that covers about 90 percent of the resource-rich West Philippine Sea and South China Sea. The legality of the claim was challenged by the Philippines before an international court in 2013.
Last July, the tribunal based in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines and declared that China’s nine-dash line has no legal basis.
The court also ruled that the Philippines has sovereign rights over the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, and Recto (Reed) Bank, all in the waters of Palawan.
While the tribunal said it was not ruling on sovereignty issue over Panatag Shoal, it declared that China had violated its duty to respect the Filipinos’ traditional fishing rights by preventing them from entering the shoal.
The West Philippine Sea row is expected to be tackled during Duterte’s meetings with Chinese officials today. The Philippine president is scheduled to hold separate meetings with Chinese president Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang.
“We would like to thank the People’s Republic of China for allowing us to visit the country and to have a wide ranging bilateral talks regarding shared mutual benefits and other issues that are of importance to the regional peace and security particularly the Southeast Asia,” Duterte said.
“We have identified broad outlines, there can be no specific agreements at this time and we would be glad to engage them and every other while we can to enhance the peace of the region,” he added.
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