MANILA — (UPDATE) President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said Chinese President Xi Jinping once warned him against oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea.
"Sabi ko, I'm going there to dig oil. Sabi ni Xi Jinping, in whisper, tanungin mo sila, alam mo Mayor Duterte, we just restored our friendship. It was not good for a number of years pero huwag na muna tayo pag-usapan. Sabi niya, let's talk about helping each other, trade, commerce, investments, China can help. Doon na nagstart," Duterte told reporters in an ambush interview before Senator-elect Christopher "Bong" Go's oath-taking at the Malacañang Palace.
"No, no, balik ako. I want my oil because that is ours. He said, 'No, that could mean trouble.' "
According to Duterte, Xi's statement was a clear warning.
"Kayong mga ugok, ang alam niyo kayo lang ang bright, ul*l, 'pag lumabas 'yung . . . that is trouble. Ano'ng ibig sabihin niyan, from the mouth of President (Xi)," he said.
Twenty-two Filipino fishermen were left at sea by the Chinese crew after sinking their boat. They were later rescued by a Vietnamese vessel. An investigation is underway to determine whether the ramming was intentional.
Duterte has downplayed the incident as he seeks to avoid ruffling feathers in Beijing, prompting outrage from critics who want Manila to stand up to Chinese aggression.
Duterte, earlier this week, was also asked if the Philippines should bar China from fishing in the country's exclusive economic zone. The President replied that Beijing and Manila are "friends" and that there should not be any "bloody conclusion."
His spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, later said the government would "tolerate" China's fishermen in the EEZ, where Manila has exclusive rights to resources, based on a 2016 ruling of a United Nations-backed court.