Duterte admits being ‘inutile’ in asserting rights in the South China Sea

Published July 27, 2020, 9:49 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

President Duterte admitted that his hands are tied when it comes to asserting the country’s right in the disputed islets in the South China Sea because doing so will only start a losing war against China.

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte

In his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monda, Duterte asked his critics to “call off” because he cannot afford to go to war against China.

“Now, plenty of critics, both sides, claim about nothing has been done to retake forcefully or physically the South China Sea. Alam mo (You know), unless we are prepared to go to war, I would suggest that you better just call off and treat it as a diplomatic endeavor,” he said.

Duterte reiterated that the Philippines is claiming certain areas in the sea but China is in possession of the disputed waters.

“China is claiming it. We are claiming it. China has the arms, we do not have it. So? It’s simple as that…  China is in possession. So what can we do?” he said.

“We have to go to war and I cannot afford it. Maybe some other president can but I cannot. Inutil ako diyan, sabihin ko sa inyo. And I’m willing to admit it: Talagang inutil ako diyan. Wala akong magawa (I’m useless, I tell you, and I’m willing to admit it: I’m really useless in that part. I cannot do anything),” he added.

The President said that the moment he orders the Marines to Palawan, China’s cruise missiles will hit them before they even set sail.

Despite this, President Duterte said the government does not fail in protecting the country’s rights in the South China Sea. He said the Philippines is neither beholden nor a pawn to anyone.

“We broaden the boundaries of Philippine diplomacy. We build productive ties with everyone willing to engage us on the basis of equality and mutual respect,” he said.

“We redefine our relationships with our most important partners, placing the economy in a far better position to advance our interests in an evolving regional order and emerging global problems,” he added.

President Duterte, meanwhile, thumbed down the idea of America building military bases in Subic as it would be a magnet for attack if the United States gets into a shooting war.

“I’ll just put on record my thoughts. I have nothing against America, I have nothing against China. But if you put bases here, you double the spectacle of a most destructive… just like Manila in the Second World War. One of the most devastated cities in the world,” he said.

“Kaya mag-lagay-lagay ka ng (So if you will put up a) base at this time? This will ensure that a war breaks out because there will be atomic arsenals brought in. This will ensure the extinction of the Filipino race,” he added.

In his SONA in 2019, President Duterte reiterated his stand that he cannot assert the Philippines’ rights over the disputed West Philippine Sea as it might spark a war with China.

In August last year, Duterte made his fifth visit to China where he hoped to discuss the 2016 Hague Ruling with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The latter, however, reiterated China’s stand that they are not recognizing the ruling.

In an interview with Russian news outlet RT in January this year, the President said the Philippines “might just as well be friendly, improve our commerce, and let time heal” when asked about the disputed waters.

“Tomorrow will take care of itself, [that’s] one thing for sure and like any other historical claim, the world is always changing and we did not really do it at the expense of the lives of Filipinos,” he said then.