Duterte says if China touches Pag-asa, he'll order soldiers, "prepare for suicide missions"
President Rodrigo Duterte told China not to touch Pag-asa Island and nearby islets in Palawan, saying they are "ours."
In a speech Thursday night in Palawan where he attended the campaign rally of the ruling PDP-Laban senatorial bets, Duterte said he was not warning China, but things would be different if Beijing would insist on occupying Pag-asa, which is part of the Kalayaan Island Group, a declared Philippine territory.
"I'm trying to tell China, Pag-asa is ours. We have been there (since) 1974. If that's yours, why didn't you shoo us away? So let us be friend, but do not touch Pag-asa Island and the rest. Otherwise, things would be different," he said.
"This is not a warning, this is just a word of advice to my friends because we are friends with China. So I'm requesting. I will not plead or beg, but I'm just telling you that layoff the Pag-asa because we have soldiers there," Duterte said.
He said if China would touch Pag-asa, he would order Filipino soldiers, "prepare for suicide missions."
He said the military would deploy five Navy ships.
"Then we would have known that time whether we can really fight or not," he added.
The Department of Foreign Affairs sent on March 29 a note verbale to Chinese Embassy protesting the presence of over 200 Chinese vessels near Pag-asa.
The Western Command has reported that militia men and not fishermen were on board the ships.
Later, in an ambush interview, Duterte said the government would go into "a compromise for the time being" with China to prevent war.
Duterte described the territorial dispute in the South China Sea as "geopolitics."
"But this time, it has become a geopolitics --- territory plus political, world politics. It's now geopolitics. America wants to pass there, it will insist. That one day, when somebody commits a mistake, well, it will explode, then goodbye Palawan, Iloilo, Pangasinan, because your facing (South China Sea)," he said.
While US has vowed to help the Philippines in case conflict with China arises, Duterte said it is not automatic as it would need America's congressional approval.
The Philippines and the US have a Mutual Defense Treaty that provides that both nations would support each other if either of them were to be attacked by an external party.
"You know in America, they can declare war, but they have to get the permission of Congress of the United States of America. What if they won't give," Duterte said.
"Do I trust the Americans? Yes. But will that help be on time? That's the problem," he added.
During the recent visit of US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Manila, the President said they talked about "restoring normalcy" between the two countries.
Aside from the criticisms that the Duterte administration received from Obama administration due to his bloody war on drugs, Duterte became irked with the US after some of its lawmakers tried to stop the deal between the Philippine National Police and an American firm regarding the acquisition of firearms.
Pompeo apparently tried to discuss again the possibility of arms's acquisition. But Duterte said, "I said I don't like it anymore, it's (because of) delicadeza."
With US rejection on the purchase of weapons, he recalled that when he went to China and Russia, they immediately offered to provide the Philippines with arms and they were even for free. Celerina Monte/DMS