The government cannot engage in a “shooting war” with China or any country due to its limited military resources, Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque admitted that this situation is the “reality,” as he brushed aside allegations about President Duterte’s supposed lack of patriotism when he admitted he “cannot afford to be brave in the mouth of China.”
Duterte, speaking to government troops in Pampanga last Friday, Feb. 12, explained that he wanted to avoid any confrontation and opted to stay neutral amid the US-China power contest in the region.
“I don’t think it’s unpatriotic,” Roque said during a televised press briefing Monday, Feb. 15, about the President’s remark on China.
“I think it is the reality that given current state of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, we cannot engage in a shooting war with any country, not just China,” he added.
In his remarks Friday, the President refused to take sides in the US-China power struggle, saying he doesn’t want to quarrel with any nation. Duterte insists that the he was “not allied with anyone” and that he was only looking after the interest of the Philippines.
The United States and China have been locked in a rivalry to become the dominant economic and military power in the Asia Pacific region. Being also has overlapping claims over the South China Sea with the Philippines and other Asian neighbors.
“I am walking on a tightrope, actually. I cannot afford to be brave in the mouth against China because, well, we are avoiding any confrontation — a confrontation that would lead to something which we can hardly afford, at least not at this time,” Duterte said.
“We want to remain neutral. We do not want to quarrel with anybody,” said Duterte, who has opted to pursue closer economic relations with China despite a lingering territorial dispute.
In the same event, the President said the United States should “pay” if it wants to keep the visiting forces agreement (VFA) with the Philippines. The military pact, which took effect in 1999, governs the conduct of visiting American troops in the country.
“It’s a shared responsibility, but your share of responsibility does not come free. Because after all, when the war breaks out, we all pay. You, kami, we are nearest to the garrison there where there are a lot of arsenals of the Chinese armed forces,” he said.