MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday defended anew his administration's relationship with China, saying Beijing just wants to become a friend of the Philippines.
Since assuming the presidency, Duterte has chosen to forge closer ties with China, setting aside Manila’s dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea.
Analysts say Duterte’s overtures to China has also hurt the Philippines long-standing alliance with the United States.
Speaking at a campaign rally in Malabon, Duterte said he turned to China because of American criticism to his war on drugs. He cited how the US government halted selling arms to the Philippines over human rights concerns.
“You know… China just wants to be friend with us. Binigyan tayo ng baril, binigyan tayo ng bala. Pumunta ako doon because America failed to deliver what we ordered,” Duterte said.
(You know... China just wants to be friend with us. They gave us arms, ammunition. I went there because America failed to deliver what we ordered.)
Duterte also claimed he did not promise to accelerate infrastructure building in the country when he was campaigning for president because he was not sure if China would back him.
“There were so may things I never mentioned - itong Build Build Build because I was not sure if China will deal with me when I become president,” Duterte said during the campaign rally of PDP-Laban in Malabon City.
“It was only when I went there and talked to them pati sa Russia, ang Amerikano naman nagdududa."
(There were so many things I never mentioned, including the Build Build Build program because I was not if China will deal with me when I become president. It was only when I went there and talked to them and Russia that the Americans started to take notice.)
Duterte’s defense of the warming Philippine-China ties under his government comes amid fresh concerns about Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.
The Philippine military recently reported the presence of a large number of Chinese vessels in surrounding Pag-asa Island.
A documentary released by senatorial bet Neri Colmenares also featured Filipino fishermen narrating how they were driven away from the Scarborough Shoal by Chinese authorities.
Duterte said the Philippines cannot confront China because it cannot match the regional power’s military might.
“If I go to war pupulpugin ang Navy ko in a matter of minutes. Kung makipag-gyera ako sa China, in 7 minutes yung missile nila aabot ng Manila,” he said.
(If I go to war my Navy will be crushed in a matter of minutes. If I wage a war with China, in 7 minutes their missile will reach Manila.)