Duterte invokes defense pact with US
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday he is now invoking the mutual defense treaty of the Philippines with the United States amid criticisms against him on how his administration has been handling the territorial dispute with China.
"I'm calling now America. I am invoking the RP-US pact, and I would like America to gather all their Seventh Fleet in front of China," said Duterte in an interview by his friend evangelist Apollo Quiboloy.
It could not be ascertained if Duterte was serious or he was just mocking his critics who have been prodding him to insist to China the July 2016 arbitral ruling favoring the Philippines and invalidating China's historic and sovereign rights over the South China Sea through its nine-dash line.
"I am asking them (US) now and I will join them," Duterte said.
But he said he would "drag along" Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who are among those known personalities asking Duterte to fight for the country's claim in the South China Sea, particularly the West Philippine Sea, which is within the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
There is pressure on Duterte not to be virtually submissive to China, especially after the sinking of a fishing boat carrying 22 Filipino fishermen in the Philippine-claimed Recto Bank on July 9 by a Chinese vessel.
Duterte has downplayed the incident, saying it was just an accident as he even indicated he had an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow Chinese fishermen within the Philippine EEZ.
"They have been saying that there is a treaty between America and the Philippines - RP-US pact, military pact. An attack of one is an attack of all against all American forces. But there is that condition - condition sine qua non, and that if there is a violent attack in our country, it's like (an attack also) against them," Duterte said.
But while he thinks that America would not interfere in the territorial controversies, Duterte said he is now calling America and invoking the Mutual Defense Treaty, which the two countries signed in 1951.
He said when they ride on a US vessel, he would even ask the American admiral to give him the honor to press the button to attack China.
"And may be that will be the end of Palawan. Palawan will be devastated, may be occupied or if there will be nuclear bombs, then we would dry up. So nothing will grow here. We can just wait for just like a big hole coming our way to suck us to eternity," he said.
Carpio earlier suggested to the Duterte government six non-war options to insist to China the arbitral ruling.
But Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo has said still the best option is the tact now of the government, which is through negotiations.
But while the Duterte administration has been negotiating with China, the latter has been fortifying its presence in the disputed waters, especially on its artificial islands located even inside the Philippine EEZ. Celerina Monte/DMS