Duterte says: No war with China; perhaps in year 4001

By Genalyn Kabiling

President Duterte has remained opposed about waging war with China over a dispute in the South China Sea but joked about the possibility that the Philippines could invade the Asian giant by the year 4001.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (REY BANIQUET/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN) President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

The President made the statement to highlight the country does not stand a chance against China if war breaks out, fearing a massacre of Filipino troops.

"What can I do about China? At this time, none. Aggression? Impossible. It will be a massacre. Before I can launch a plane na tatargetin na ‘yan, it’s because talagang hindi natin kaya . We have to admit that we cannot launch a war with China,” Duterte said during the anniversary rites of the Office of the Solicitor General last Tuesday night.

"Naglalaro ako ng baraha dito, wala man rin akong magawa, dito muna ‘yang China. ‘Pag year 4001, tigas na tayo, invade natin ‘yung China, kunin natin ‘yung oil natin. By that time, i-straw mo, wala na. Maski bunbon ," he said in jest.

The Philippines remains locked in a dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea despite an arbitration ruling nullifying Beijing’s claims. Some concerned groups have criticized the Duterte government for failing to do enough to protest China's reclamation works and military buildup in the disputed territory.

The President however asserted that he was not willing to go to war he cannot win.

“Hayaan mo lang ang China. Hindi naman natin ma-giyera, we cannot retake it ," he said.

"If I start to make trouble there by just firing a few shots, it will grow into something big which might not really good for us," he said.

Duterte also dismissed allegations that he was not aggressive in defending the country's claim over the West Philippine Sea.

He said he already told Chinese President Xi Jinping about his plans to "dig oil" in the disputed territory during their first meeting in Beijing. Duterte insisted that the territory belongs to the Philippines and even cited the arbitration award but Xi claimed that China has historical claims over the South China Sea.

Duterte said Xi suggested to talk about the dispute "later on" and instead focus on cooperative ventures such as joint oil exploration. He said Xi even offered to give the Philippines a "little add on" or a bigger share in the proposed deal.

Duterte however said he intends to consult Congress and other groups about the proposed China deal since he does not know whether or not it was legal.

"Decision ko, sabi ko, 'Let us continue to talk and maybe we will decide, but let us --- may I more or less consult Congress and everybody if they are willing to do it?'" he said.

"Eh kung may mag-file ng kaso, the better, so that they can have a clearer understanding and a legal leg to stand on kung ano ang mangyari ," he added.