DAVAO CITY: President Rodrigo Duterte has again called out China for shooing away a Philippine military aircraft over the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In his speech during the Hugpong ng Pagbabago convention in Davao City on Friday night, Duterte said the Philippines was a “friend” who does not deserve “nasty words” over the sea dispute.
“Go out there or that is your responsibility if anything will happen.’ You know very well that we will not attack anybody there. And we are a claimant of the group of islands,” Duterte said.
“I told you we are not prepared to go to war with you, so why do you have to say those nasty words? There’s no need for that. We are your friend,” he added.
Duterte also maintained that China cannot unilaterally build artificial islands in the South China Sea and claim sovereignty over the area.
On Tuesday, Duterte called on China to “temper” its behavior in the West Philippine Sea amid reports it had warned ships and aircraft against getting too close to their islands.
The President said it was “wrong” for a nation to create artificial islands and claim ownership of the airspace above the the territory.
“The right of innocent passage is guaranteed. It does not need any permission to sail through the open seas. And if it’s nearby a territorial water, you guarantee what you would call the right of innocent passage,” Duterte said.
“So I hope that China would temper its — at least its behavior. I do not want to quarrel with China,” he added.
China rebuffed Duterte’s rare criticisms, with its foreign ministry saying on Friday that the Spratly Islands were China’s inherent territory and that China respects the right to freedom of navigation and overflight that all countries enjoy in the South China Sea under international law.
Since assuming the presidency, Duterte has sought to downplay Manila’s maritime dispute with Beijing in exchange for improved ties with and economic assistance from the world’s second-largest economy.
Duterte has also refused to flaunt the Philippines’ legal victory against China in a United Nations-backed arbitration court ruling in 2016 that invalidated Beijing’s expansive claims to the waters.
‘Who are you to warn us?’
Also on Friday, Duterte hit the United States for warning against buying submarines from Russia, when it did not even bother to give one to the Philippines.
“Who are you to warn us?” he said before more than 5,000 members of the Hugpong party at the SMX Convention Center.
Randall Schriver, US defense assistant secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs, warned last week against buying submarines and other military hardware from Russia, saying this was a “statement” on the relationship between the Philippines and the US.
The President dared any US representative to “meet me in a forum and I will invite everybody interested. You state your case why you are against my country acquiring submarines.”
Schriver’s warning came ahead of a scheduled meeting of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana with a Russian counterpart.
Duterte pointed out that compared with its wealthier Southeast Asian neighbors, the Philippines lacked submarines.
“You want us to remain backward,” Duterte said, adding that despite the lack of the necessary military hardware the US did not bother to give the Philippines a single submarine.
“You sold us used NATO helicopters. Refurbished. You sold us six helicopters. Three have already crashed, the last one killed all its crew members,” Duterte said.
©2018 The Manila Times (Manila, Philippines)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.