MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday that he “never promised anything” about Chinese incursion in the West Philippine Sea, when he ran for chief executive in the 2016 elections.
“I never, never, in my campaign as President, promise the people that I would re-take the West Philippine Sea. I did not promise that I would pressure China,” Duterte said in a taped public address.
“I never promised anything. Just because I’m President, gusto n’yong makipag-away ako (you want me to fight),” he added.
Officials of the previous administration, he said, only “pretended to work on it.”
The previous administration of President Benigno Aquino Jr. had initiated an arbitral complaint against China. In 2016, a United Nations-backed court junked Beijing's claims to 90 percent of the South China Sea, within which is the smaller West Philippine Sea.
In a pre-election debate in 2016, Duterte said he would not wage war against China if it refused to obey the ruling.
However, he said he would ask the Philippine Navy to bring him to the boundary of the Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea so he can "ride a jet ski while bringing the Philippine flag."
He said he would go to the airport built by China on reclaimed land and plant the Philippine flag there.
"This is ours. Do what you want with me," he said he would tell Beijing.
"Matagal ko nang ambisyon na maging hero ako. Kung pinatay nila ako dun, bahala na kayo umiyak dito sa Pilipinas."
(It has long been my ambition to be a hero. If they kill me there, cry for me here in the Philippines)