Duterte clarifies stand on China row, NPA tax

ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Aspiring president and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Friday clarified his stand on the West Philippine Sea dispute and the importance of friendly ties with rebels in Mindanao.

Speaking to reporters in San Pedro, Laguna, Duterte said that his stand on the sea dispute has never changed from exhausting diplomatic avenues.

This he said is contrary to the observation of his rival, Liberal Party bet Mar Roxas, claiming that the mayor is presenting "flip-flopping" views on the issue.

Roxas was referring to Duterte's seemingly conflicting statements of being willing to ''shut up'' about the sea row in exchange for Chinese aid, and being ready to challenge Beijing to a fistfight or shooting match.

But hurling tirades against Roxas, Duterte said: "Baka ang nagfli-flipflop ay siya -- sometimes, lalaki; sometimes, babae. Isa lang ang China, ano ba ang i-flipflop mo diyan. That is ours there. Anong gusto niya? I will claim the whole of China for us?"

Duterte went on to say that although he will maintain friendly ties with China, the Asian giant should understand that he will not tolerate its encroachment of Philippine territory in the resource-rich sea.

"I am friendly to everybody. I am friendly even to China, but China knows that that is ours. It doesn't mean to say that if you're my friend, if you take a territory from me, I will not be friendly with you," he said.

He also said that his administration will claim the right to structures that China built on Philippine islands and waters.

"Our stand is very consistent and it cannot change forever: that what they have built there in our area will be ours also by accretion? Inilagay mo sa teritoryo ko, pasensya ka, eventually that is ours because the waters is ours," he reasoned.

But Duterte added that even if Beijing escalates its aggression on claiming Philippine territory, government cannot simply retaliate with a proclamation of war.

"War is a dirty word. We cannot fight with anybody including China... I will not go to war and I will not waste the lives of the Filipino soldiers there," the PDP-Laban bet said.

"Bakit tayo mag-giyera, wala naman tayong laban? We're a small country. We must be honest to admit it. We are under armed."

Duterte said that the Philippines could only go to war with the help of the U.S., as mandated by the defense accords of the two countries.

"Kapag may provocation diyan, may namatay, tatawagan ko ang America: 'Are you with us or are you not with us?' If you are with us, then let's go. [If not], e di sasabihin ko, let's talk," he said.

FRIENDLY WITH REBELS

Duterte also addressed criticisms on his friendly ties with rebel groups in the south, particularly the New People's Army.

"You cannot build a nation without talking to your enemies. Definitely, the communists are a threat to our country, an enemy of the state. But the enemy has been here since 1970 and until now, there is war," he said.

"I have to talk to them, I have see what I can do for my country to arrive at a peaceful solution. You do not kill your own enemies, you have to talk them. I am friendly with them because I know one day, I will have to talk them about nation-building."

Roxas recently slammed Duterte for the mayor's supposed advice to businessmen to pay revolutionary taxes to the NPA.

But Duterte's running mate, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, countered that Roxas and the administration have also included peace talks with the NPA in their own agenda.

"Ang Liberal po ang nagsabi na kasama sa programa nila ang pakikipag-usap sa NPA. Bakit kapag mas gusto ng NPA na kausap si Mayor Duterte, biglang sila ngayon ay kalaban at hindi dapat kausapin?" he quipped. -- With a report from Doris Bigornia, ABS-CBN News

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