MANILA - The Philippines needs the United States in the South China Sea, where it is embroiled in a dispute with China, President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday.
Duterte said he never told US troops to get out of the country, but they might be asked to leave Mindanao “at some time in the future.”
“I never said get out of the Philippines. After all, kailangan natin sila dyan sa China Sea. Wala naman tayong armament [After all, we need them in the China Sea. We don’t have armaments],” Duterte said in a speech at an army camp in Compostela Valley province.
“We are also not ready to go to war with China. Ayaw ko [I don’t want that]. It will just be a massacre,” he added.
Duterte had rejected US criticism of his bloody war on drugs, at one time threatening to curse at US President Barack Obama in an ASEAN Summit meeting if he brought up his concern over extra-judicial killings in the new administration's war on drugs.
In July, a United Nations-backed court ruled in favor of a petition by Manila, saying Beijing had no historical rights to the resource-rich waters.
Duterte tapped former president Fidel Ramos for informal talks after the ruling. Ramos said formal negotiations are being worked out.
Earlier this month, Duterte said intelligence reports showed Chinese barges were spotted near Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground controlled by Beijing, indicating possible construction activities.