MANILA — Amid reports of Chinese construction in the disputed territories in West Philippine Sea, President Rodrigo Duterte said that Chinese authorities assured him there won't be any construction in Panatag Shoal.
"I was informed that they are not going to build anything in Panatag (Shoal) out of respect for our friendship," Duterte told reporters during a press conference at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) following his arrival from Thailand.
Duterte was in Myanmar and Thailand for a series of official visits. He arrived in Manila at 2:33 a.m. on Thursday.
Duterte said that China will not do anything that will jeopardize its relations with the Philippines.
"That was the assurance given by the Chinese government. They will not build anything in Panatag (Shoal) because they want our friendship. They won't do anything to jeopardize our friendship," he said.
"China has a word of honor."
Meanwhile, Duterte backtracked on his campaign statement that he will go to the disputed islands on a Jet Ski.
During the presidential debates, Duterte 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."
"Why do you have to go there and look for friction if friction can cause explosion?" he said.
"Maya-maya makasagasa ka pa ng pating d'yan," Duterte said in jest.
(I might run over sharks there.)
Duterte revealed that if he wishes to visit the disputed territories, the Chinese has offered to take him there onboard a helicopter.
The president also said that he has allowed the Chinese to conduct innocent passage in the disputed territories.
"You are free to enter, just inform the Navy, inform the Foreign Affairs secretary," Duterte told the Chinese.