PH, China should ‘meet halfway’ on maritime row: Duterte

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 18 2019 12:35 AM | Updated as of Apr 18 2019 04:49 AM

MANILA (UPDATED) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said the Philippines and China should meet “halfway” in addressing the South China Sea dispute.

Duterte warned of “trouble” if the sea row claims the life of a Filipino soldier in the area.

“Sabihin ko sa China ngayon, they should also meet halfway,” the President said in a speech during a campaign rally of the PDP-Laban party in Batangas City.

His remarks came following military reports that more than 600 Chinese vessels have been spotted near the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island since January.

“Tulad ng mangingisda natin, tapos palibutan nila ’yang Pag-asa. Sabi ko, huwag ninyo i-surround dahil may sundalo ako diyan,” Duterte said.

(Like our fishermen and then they would surround Pag-asa Island. I asked them not to surround it since I have soldiers there.)

“’Pag namatayan ako ng sundalo diyan (If I lose a soldier there), it could precipitate trouble there.”

Duterte also expressed doubt whether the United States would come to the Philippines’ defense, should trouble ensue off the disputed waters.

“Would America risk a third world war just to defend, makuha mo yang Spratly na ‘yan?” Duterte asked.

He blamed the country’s lost of control over the Scarborough Shoal on the previous administration.

“Ang Scarborough, nawala 'yan sa panahon ni Aquino, hindi sa akin,” he said.

Duterte last week said he would not allow Beijing to occupy the island and noted that Manila would have to reach a compromise with China, because the Philippines could not afford to go to war against its more powerful Asian neighbor.

Earlier this week, Malacañang said Duterte might raise the issue of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa when the President visits China later this month for the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

Beijing refuses to recognize a 2016 ruling from a UN-backed tribunal, which invalidated its sweeping claims over the South China Sea.