Duterte wants to be a hero in dispute vs China

ABS-CBN News

How do you solve a problem like the ongoing row in the West Philippine Sea between the Philippines and China?

For Davao City mayor and presidential front runner Rodrigo Duterte, it is important that the Philippines first win the arbitration case filed against Beijing in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

He, however, said he will not declare war against China if Beijing refuses to honor the arbitration court ruling and continues to occupy contested areas in the West Philippine Sea.

If this happens, he said he will ask the Philippine Navy to bring him to the boundary of the Spratlys so he can "ride a jet ski while bringing the Philippine flag."

"I will not commit the Filipino soldiers [to war] kaya ako na lang pupunta doon," he said.

His plan: go to the airport built by China on reclaimed land in the Spratlys and plant the Philippine flag there.

Only then will he say: "This is ours. Do what you want with me."

"Matagal ko nang ambisyon na maging hero ako. Kung pinatay nila ako dun, bahala na kayo umiyak dito sa Pilipinas," he said.

The Philippines asked a United Nations-backed arbitration body in
January 2013 to declare China's claims over the South China Sea as illegal. Manila filed the case nine months after a tense maritime
standoff in Scarborough Shoal ended with China's effective occupation of the rich fishing ground.

Chinese coastguard ships stationed in Scarborough Shoal have routinely used water cannons to drive away Filipino fishermen, who mostly sail from the western provinces of Zambales and Pangasinan.

A ruling on the arbitration case is expected this year, according to
the Department of Foreign Affairs.

China refused to participate in the proceedings, but responded to the Philippines' challenge by building massive structures fit for army use.

More than $5 trillion in global trade passes through the South China Sea every year, and the United States, the Philippines' long-standing ally, has sailed warships and flew spy planes near the disputed waters to ensure freedom of navigation.