Ahead of possible talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam, President Rodrigo Duterte said yesterday that he wants to know straight answer from Beijing to clarify what it “truly needs” to do in the West Philippine Sea.
“It’s about time that ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries – not really to confront – but to make clear to us what China really wants,” President Duterte said on Wednesday, November 8, at his pre-departure briefing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) before leaving for Da Nang in Vietnam to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
Philippine President said he would bring up the issue either in a bilateral meeting or during a plenary session.
“I should be bringing this important matter to the surface so that we will know when can we be safe in traveling the expanse because they have claimed it now,” said Duterte.
He said, “I do not take it against China. But what are the stakes? Do you want control of the passage?”
“Unbridled, undisturbed, unmolested [passage] while we use that small way from the Indian Ocean, the Indo-China Pacific which is facing Palawan,” he continued.
China should be clear about its plans as these could have an impact on the Philippines and on the region in general.
“We are friends with China. May utang na loob tayo (We have a debt of gratitude). At one moment in our life or the lives of the Filipinos, they were there to give us the arms when we had none and we were fighting it out in Marawi,” the President told a press briefing at the NAIA Terminal 2.
“But let us be clear on what we intend to do here because eventually, it will affect the entire Philippine archipelago,” he said.
“The truth is, if I could only confront China or if it is China alone – that’s the problem. But I said, there are contesting countries which have overlapping jurisdictions,” the President said.
“And if I engage China now, I will have to engage the five others. It would be something like a scramble there because if China concedes to one, Philippines, it has to concede to the others,” he pointed out.
“And what will now happen to our general claim of being the economic zone belonging to my country? That’s a problem,” he added.
“I just hope that he (Chinese President Xi) would honor it because it will change the entire geography of the world. And war starts. I don’t know what will be the next geographical division of Asia,” the President said on Tuesday.
Watch President Duterte speech prior to his departure.