MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte declared Thursday he will not allow China to occupy Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea, amid the surge of hundreds of Chinese vessels in the area.
“I assure you, unless China wants a war with us, eh 'di ako papayag kung pati 'yung Pag-asa i-occupy nila? No, of course not,” President Duterte said in an interview with reporters in Puerto Princesa.
Asked how he will respond to the issue, Duterte said he would have to reach for a compromise with China, as he reiterated that the Philippines could not afford to go to war against its more powerful Asian neighbor.
“We go into a compromise for the time being, kasi hindi nga, if we go to war or there is a violent conflict, we would never win and I would suffer beyond imagination. I would just go there send my soldiers and policemen to be slaughtered. I am not prepared to do that,” Duterte said.
He said that the presence of Chinese vessels in Pag-asa “has something to do with the greater game of geopolitics.”
“It is not directed to us,” Duterte said. “And I assure you that if they kill or arrest people there who are Filipinos, then that would be the time that we will have to decide on what to do.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has said the presence of Chinese boats near Pag-asa Island is illegal and a violation of Philippine sovereignty.
The Palace earlier confirmed that Manila has already filed a diplomatic protest over the incident.