Duterte says Navy ships to be deployed to WPS if China starts drilling oil
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday night that he will send Navy ship to West Philippine Sea if China starts drilling oil.
This was the first time that Duterte issued a statement since reports came out last month about swarming of Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe Reef, an area within the Philippine exclusive economic zone, and has been a subject of series of diplomatic protests that the Department of Foreign Affairs filed against Beijing.
"I am addressing myself to the Chinese government. We want to remain friends, we want to share whatever it is. I have told the Chinese government that I'm not so much interested in fishing. I don't think there's enough fish to quarrel about," he said.
"But when we start to mine, when we start to get whatever it is in the bowels of China Sea, our oil there, by that time I will send my ships there. I will send my gray ships there to stake a claim. You can be sure of that. If you get the oil, nickel and precious stones, that will be the time, that's the time that we should act," Duterte said.
He recalled that he and Chinese Xi Jinping agreed before that there would be no drilling that would take place in the South China Sea.
If China would renege on the agreement, he said, "if you start to drill if you own it, I own it."
Duterte slammed those who have been criticizing him, specifically retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, for not acting agaist the supposed current Chinese incursion in Julian Felipe Reef.
"Even if I go there, (Defense) Secretary (Delfin) Lorenzana and sail there and ask question, they just answer you. But the issue of West Philippine Sea remains a question forever until such time we can take it back," he said.
He expressed belief that the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea could not be resolved through papers but only through war.
However, he said, "If we promote war against China and America...at what cost to us. That's the problem.
"But we can retake it only by force. There is no way that we can get back that what they call is Philippine Sea without bloodshed," he said.
While the Philippines has a Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States, he expressed belief that if the attack against China would be started by the Philippines, it would not be covered by the military agreement.
"You're saying that America will go to war because of West Philippine Sea and we will be the first to start. You know, under the Mutual Defense Treaty, I don't know if I'm right, only if we are being attacked (US will come into our aid). It does not include a war initiated by us," he said.
China has been claiming almost the entire South China Sea, including areas within the EEZ of other countries like the Philippines. This was despite the 2016 arbitral ruling invalidating China's historic and sovereign claim in almost the whole South China Sea. Celerina Monte/DMS