MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday warned China that the Philippines would not easily back down in case it launches an invasion.
''I guarantee to them na kung kayo ang pumasok dito, it will be bloody and we will not give it to them easily. It will be the bones of our soldiers, pati ang akin,'' Duterte said during a speech at a military camp in Rizal.
(I guarantee to them [China] that if you invade us, it will be bloody and we will not give it to them easily. It will be the bones of our soldiers, including mine.)
Duterte issued these strong words even as Manila and Beijing are trying to mend ties following years of animosity over the South China Sea dispute during the Aquino administration.
A Hague-based arbitral tribunal recently invalidated China's claim to the South China Sea in favor of Manila, but Duterte has been hesitant to ''flaunt'' the arbitration victory in order not to offend Beijing.
Duterte also wants Manila to be less dependent on its traditional ally Washington when it comes to dealing with China, saying the Philippines should ''chart its own course."
Duterte earlier sent former President Fidel Ramos to Hong Kong to meet with the former leader's friends there, in an attempt to thaw the ice-cold relationship of the two Asian neighbors.
He also hinted that the bilateral talks between the Philippines and Beijing will start soon.
But while Duterte is seeking to improve Manila's ties with Beijing through bilateral negotiations, he admitted that he will eventually have to raise the arbitral tribunal's decision, something the Chinese have long rejected.
He added, Southeast Asian countries will also insist that China respect the Hague ruling.
''Because whether we like it or not, that arbitral judgment would be insisted not only by the Philippines but by the whole (sic) countries in Southeast Asia,'' he said.
''The problem is what about us? What about the issue between us? We will not raise hell now because of the judgment [of the arbitral tribunal] but there will come a time that we have to do some reckoning about this."