Duterte says PH is 'neutral' on Ukraine-Russia conflict; 'may have to choose sides'

As he prays that the conflict between Ukraine and Russia will not get worse, President Duterte reiterated that the Philippines is neutral in the dispute in Eastern Europe but said reality will push the country to pick a side someday.

President Rodrigo Duterte (RTVM Screenshot)

Duterte made the statement amid Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine that started last week and drove prices of basic goods to increase.

In a speech in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, the President reiterated that the Philippines is neutral on the issue but said that someday, the country will have to choose sides.

"We stay neutral. But reality tells me that in the end, we'll just have to select which side we will be ," he said Friday afternoon, March 4.

"Bahala na yung magpatayan sila doon huwag lang magamit ng nuclear device because talo na tayong lahat. Pati tayo damay (They can kill each other there but I hope they won't use any nuclear device because all of us will lose. We will be affected)," he added.

Duterte said he is keeping his fingers crossed that the situation will not get worse because it will affect the entire world.

"I just pray to God that this will not really go out of control," he said.

"'Pag hindi ito nakontrol, delikado ang mundo (If this cannot be controlled, the world will be in danger). Once they start to push the button of nuclear warheads or nuclear bombs... it will melt the world," he added.

The President likewise hoped that no one will be "crazy" enough to use nuclear weapons as he claimed that around 1,000 nuclear warfare is in danger to be used. He said this large number of nuclear weapons will cause unimaginable damage compared to the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.

"Americans will never stomach death and destruction. Takot sila (They are afraid)," Duterte said, recalling an interview he had six years ago before he became president.

"The Americans will not but you watch out for Putin, he is suicidal. Kaya 'pag mapahiya siya dito, magwawala 'yan (If he gets embarrassed here, he will lose it). I realized it when I went to Russia. I had a talk with him on all aspects of life," he added.

President Duterte had two trips to Russia since 2016. He first went there in May 2017 but his trip was cut short because the war in Marawi City had just started. He went to Moscow and Sochi in 2019 to attend the Valdai forum.

Early this week, Malacañang joined the rest of the world in praying for an "early and peaceful" resolution to the conflict in Ukraine, especially since the world is still reeling from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We reiterate the position of the Philippines that war benefits no one and that it exacts a tragic, bloody toll on the lives of innocent men, women, and children in the areas of conflict," Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.

"We appeal for an immediate end to the unnecessary loss of life and call on the states involved to forge an accord that can help prevent a conflagration that could engulf a world still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic," he added.

Malacañang has also laid the country's plans on weathering the effects of the ongoing conflict.