MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday the Philippines need not be rude to China as the two countries settle their maritime dispute.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier Monday told China to "get the f*** out," as the government insisted Chinese vessels were still illegally lingering in the West Philippine Sea.
But while Duterte did not mention Locsin, the President said, "China remains to be our benefactor." He has repeatedly thanked Beijing for offering COVID-19 vaccines, loans and investments to the Philippines.
“Just because we have a conflict with China, does not mean to say that we have to be rude and disrespectful,” Duterte said in a taped speech.
“As a matter of fact, we have too many things [to] thank China for, the help in the past and itong mga tulong nila ngayon (and their help now),” added Duterte, who is known for cursing several world leaders and officials.
The latest spat between Manila and Beijing over the resource-rich waters–which China claims almost entirely–flared up in March after hundreds of Chinese boats were spotted inside the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone.
China has refused repeated calls from the Philippines to withdraw the boats, and tensions have intensified as Manila steps up maritime patrols in the area.
During his speech, Duterte said the military was “ready to die for the country”, but officials in the previous administration removed Philippine ships from the waterway, while Chinese vessels stayed.
Duterte also hurled several insults at former government officials, claiming they allowed China to dominate the West Philippine Sea.
Referring to former foreign affairs secretary Albert Del Rosario, Duterte said, “Itong Albert na ito, ako pa ang sinisisi. Makita kita, suntukin kita eh. Buang ka.”
“Pagdating ko and’yan na iyong barko ng Tsina, atin ang wala,” he added.
(This Albert blames me. If I see you, I will punch you. You are crazy. When I arrived, China's ship was already there, ours was not.)
He then went on to say that Del Rosario did not look like a Filipino. He also commented on the weight of retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
"Retired na, wala na ‘yan. Anong nagawa mo? Anong nagawa ng pagka-Supreme Court mo?" said Duterte.
(He's retired, nothing What did you do? What did being in the Supreme Court accomplish.)
Carpio had recommended that the Philippines lodge an arbitration complaint against China's incursion into Philippine waters, while Del Rosario led its filing.
A United Nations-backed court in 2016 ruled in favor of the Philippines, and junked China's "historical" claims to the waterway.
However, Duterte has refused to set aside the ruling in exchange for promises of trade and investment that critics say have largely not materialized.
Duterte said that in the lead-up to the 2016 elections, he never promised “I would retake the West Philippine Sea.”
“I never promised anything. Just because I’m President, gusto n’yong makipag-away ako (you want me to fight),” he said.
Appearing to address China, he added, “Kindly just allow our fishermen to fish, and say there is no reason for trouble. If there is one brewing, you call our attention and we can talk immediately, solve the problem.”
– With a report from Agence France-Presse