Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned President Duterte early in his presidency that “there will be trouble” if the latter insisted on drilling for oil in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea (WPS) that the Philippines and China, along with four other nations, are claiming as their own.
Malacañang aired the President’s pre-recorded “Talk to the People” on Monday but this time, former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, the architect of ex-President Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law, was in attendance.
Addressing the former senator as “sir,” Duterte recalled his visit to China and meeting with Xi. He did not mention when the conversation took place as the President visited Beijing two times, in October 2016 and August 2019.
“I said, Mr. President, I know that we have conflicting claims but you know I have plans of going to West Philippine Sea to dig my oil,” he told Enrile.
“Sabi niya in whisper you know, Mr. President, please do not do that. You will just sour up our, you know, we have a new beginning here, new friendship found but if you do that, he said almost (a) whisper, there will be trouble,” Duterte recalled.
During his campaign, the President promised he will ride a jet ski to the disputed waters and plant the Philippine flag in one of the islands no matter what China says. He has since admitted this campaign promise was a joke and that anyone who believed it was “stupid.”
Duterte said he was “prudent” during his earlier meetings with Xi, even taking with him his Cabinet officials such as then Armed Forces chief of staff General Eduardo Año, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
“In the early days of my administration, I announced a change of the direction of our foreign policy from being pro-Western to just neutral. Just playing it safe in the meantime because there might be really a trouble brewing,” the President said.
Duterte shared that he was “kinda a bit scants about their insistence to go back to the united council,” referring to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that includes China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, and France as permanent members, which means they have veto power.
Armed dispute in the region will bring it under the UNSC, but China has veto powers that will leave anything the Security Council wants to do irrelevant and useless.
China claims the entire region based on the nine-dash line found on ancient Chinese maps. This has been invalidated by the Philippines’ arbitral win in July 2016, but the President said this was a piece of paper that can be thrown in the wastebasket.
Recently, Duterte has been touchy about the issues in the West Philippine Sea, attacking mostly former Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio who insisted that the President, who maintains a defeatist stance against Beijing’s aggression, needs to stand up against the Asian giant.