The Philippines and China may have shared bonds of friendship, but Presidential spokesman Harry Roque asserted on Tuesday, April 20, that such relations have limits amid the West Philippine Sea dispute.
Speaking in his virtual media briefing, the Palace official seconded President Duterte’s statement of sending “gray ships” to the WPS should China start drilling for oil in the disputed territory.
“I think on the contrary hindi nagbibigay ang presidente sa Tsina (the President is not giving in to China). He made it very clear: ‘kaibigan tayo, makikipagkaibigan ako, pero (we are friends but), there is a limit in our friendship pagdating sa mga (when it comes to) valuable resources sa tingin ko talaga ay pag-aari ng Pilipinas (that I think really belongs to the Philippines).’ Paninindigan niya iyon (He would stand for it),” Roque said.
It appears that the perceived defeatist stance of Duterte, who has been criticized over his supposed silence on Chinese vessels in the contested waters, would be changing if the latter would dig for oil and other mineral resources there.
In a televised public address Monday night, Duterte maintained he does not want any quarrel with China, but if it begins mining for oil, he would confront the Asian giant.
“When they get the oil, nickel, or whatever precious stones, that would be time because that is the time we should act on it,” he said.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported the presence of 220 Chinese vessels near Julian Felipe Reef, which is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Duterte also pinned the blame on the Aquino administration for allowing China to take control of the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal back in 2012.
Roque assured the President would not allow this incident to happen again under his administration.
“Walang isla na mawawala sa Pilipinas habang siya ang presidente (The Philippines would not lose any island as long as he is the President),” the spokesman said.