LEYTE - President Rodrigo Duterte dared the United States to fire the "first shot" against China in the disputed South China Sea, as he slammed the US for supposedly egging him to provoke China over the maritime territorial dispute.
“We can never win a war against China. Kaya iyan ang problema natin. I hope China would not overdo things also because there is always America pushing us, egging us. Tinitikoy tayo, para, ‘sige-sige.’ Ginagawa akong bait. Anong tingin nyo sa Pilipino, wati?” Duterte said during the inauguration of the Chen Yi Agventures Rice Processing Complex in Alang-Alang, Leyte.
“Ngayon sabi ko, dalhin mo mga eroplano mga barko mo dito sa China, fire the first shot at nandito kami sa likod. Sige, laban tayo kung sinong mapulpog. Totoo. Amerika,” Duterte said.
“Sabi nila, US-RP pact, okay. Let America declare the war. Let them assemble all their armaments there in South China Sea. Fire the first shot and I’ll be glad to do the next,” the President continued.
“May RP-US pact man tayo then let us honor it. You want trouble? Okay let’s do it.”
Duterte made the statement as the Philippine leader is facing mounting public criticism over his supposed submission to China, following a verbal deal he made with China’s Xi Jinping that allows the Chinese to fish within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Despite public pressure to assert the Philippines’ UN arbitral win against China, Duterte insists that such a move could provoke a devastating war against the country’s Asian neighbor.
He however pinned the blame on the United States for allowing China’s buildup and militarization in the disputed sea.
“Itong America alam nila. May Seventh Fleet sila. Bakit hindi nila pinuntahan doon sa Spratly and say, ‘Hey guys, you are not supposed to build an artificial islands in the high seas. That is exactly prohibited by international law, and the fact that you are constructing it within the exclusive economic zone of our friend, the Philippines,’” Duterte said.
“Hinayaan nila. Ngayon na medyo nandiyan na ‘yan, all the guns are there, all the missiles are mounted, they want us to enforce our fisheries law and to protect the environment there,” he said.