President Duterte warned that allowing American bases in the country will put the Philippines in the middle of a war in West Philippine Sea.
In a press conference after the turnover of China’s Sinovac vaccine, Duterte said that the “direct consequence” of renewing the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which he earlier planned to abrogate, is the country will be plunged between two armed forces.
“Kung magka-gyera, and it will surely start, maybe the theater of war will be Spratly and China Sea. Katabi lang tayo. Maraming probinsiya ang nandiyan (If there is a war, and it will surely start, maybe the theater of war will be Spratly and China Sea. We are just beside it. Many provinces are there),” Duterte said.
If the United States will store armaments in the Philippines, the President said that “we are taking a very big gamble there.”
“Kasi kung walang armaments sa Pilipinas, ‘yun lang kailangan natin sa counter-insurgency, okay na (If there are no armaments in the Philippines, only what we need for counter-insurgency, we’re okay). We do not need weapons that can fight other countries because we do not have it– the arms– and we do not want it. Ang unang matamaan, Pilipinas, kasi nandito yung base, eh. Nandito yung mga armas nila. (The Philippines will be the first one to get hit because the base is here). The arms are stored everywhere in the Philippines. Baka hindi ninyo alam. May mga depots all around the Philippines (Maybe you don’t know. There are depots all around the Philippines).”
Last year, Duterte terminated the VFA with the United States, but he later on withdrew the process of terminating the agreement. He also seemed to be open to the idea of renegotiating its terms.
He earlier said the US should pay the country if it wants to have American bases here. A remark that drew widespread criticism in Congress for what feels like an extortion.
“Sinabi ko sa kanila (I told them), I cannot stop you because we are yet to renegotiate the Visiting Forces Agreement. But I am warning you that if I get hold of a hard information that the nuclear armaments are here brought by you, I will immediately ask you to go out and terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement, ora mismo (right away),” Duterte said.
The United States is vocal of its interest in ensuring freedom of navigation and the seas in the contested region in the South China Sea. Geopolitical experts said that the region is a potential flashpoint for armed conflict.