President Duterte on Monday said the Philippines is not yet a “competent and able enemy” to go to war with China over the implementation of the 2016 Arbitral Award in the South China Sea.
In his State of the Nation Address (SONA), Duterte also lashed out at his critics who are urging him to “do something” about the Arbitral ruling handed down by the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
“But ito ngayon (now this) that there is the arbitral ruling, you know, I do not want to insult these people pushing me for something more than what I can handle,” Duterte.
He even said that the United States and some “brilliant Filipinos” whom he did not identify keep on pushing on something that “I do not know”.
“Ano pa ang gusto ninyo? (What else do you want?) What will I do with a document that does not bind China because they were never a part of that arbitration? There was really no arbitration at all because it was only the Philippine side was heard. Well and good,” he stressed.
Duterte explained that it would be a “massacre” to fight a war with China considering its obvious capability and firepower.
“At ano ang gusto nila, makipag-giyera? (What do they want, engage in a war?) ‘Do something’. What do something? Do you want war against China? Well, I’ll tell you, even on the coast beach of Palawan, before you can take off, the missile of China would be there in about five or 10 minutes. It would be a massacre if I go and fight a war now. We are not yet a competent and able enemy of the other side,” he said.
The President explained that he has done his part by clearly asserting “in no uncertain terms” the Arbitral ruling before the UN General Assembly in September last year.
“And let me talk about [what] I said in September of last year: the Arbitral Award is now part of the international law and beyond compromise and beyond the reach of the passing governments to dilute, to diminish or abandon,” he said.
However, Duterte admitted that the Philippines needs to do more by continuing to scale up the country’s maritime domain awareness and defense capabilities while not closing its doors on diplomacy and détente.
“Because that is how disputes are settled and never by force,” he said.
He maintained that the Philippines no longer decides and acts in the shadows of great powers and “will