MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he would explain to the military why he has adopted a friendly stance towards China amid the South China Sea dispute.
This in the face of reports that the military is demoralized over the chief executive’s policies on the matter as Beijing continued its fortification of contested territories in the resource-rich waters.
The President was set to meet on Tuesday high-ranking police and military officials in Malacañang for a joint conference.
“We have a command conference now. It’s a play of geopolitics. And I’ll explain to you why my attitude towards China [is like this],” Duterte said in a speech during the oath-taking of newly promoted flag officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Critics earlier called out the Duterte administration for supposedly going soft on China amid the reported installation of missiles in three reefs in the Spratlys archipelago in the South China Sea.
They urged the Duterte administration to file a formal protest against China over recent developments in its South China Sea outposts.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Navy officer and one of Duterte’s fiercest critics, earlier claimed that the country’s policy towards China has left the military demoralized.
Malacañang has said it was exploring all diplomatic options in dealing with the issue.
Duterte often defends his decision to befriend China, saying the Philippines cannot match its military power in case the two countries plunge into an armed confrontation.
“It will be massacre,” Duterte said in a speech earlier this week, referring to a potential military clash between the Philippines and China.
Last week, Duterte hit the United States and former President Benigno Aquino III for their alleged failure to stop China's militarization of the South China Sea.
China has continued to ignore the Philippines' landmark 2016 victory in an international arbitration case, where the panel nullified Beijing's nine-dash line claim to nearly all of the disputed waters.