Duterte Tells China on West Philippine Sea: 'Hindi Talaga Ako Aatras'
President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday he would not pull out the country's patrols in the West Philippine Sea, telling China that the two countries need not go to war over their maritime dispute.
Duterte, in a public address taped Thursday but aired Friday, told China that the Philippines has two ships patrolling its waters as tensions simmer between Manila and Beijing over reefs and outcrops.
"Hindi talaga ako aatras. Patayin mo man ako kung patayin mo ako, dito ako. Dito magtatapos ang ating pagkakaibigan," he said.
"I’d like to put notice sa China. May 2 barko ako d’yan, sa Philippine government's…Sabihin ko sa China ngayon... I am not ready to withdraw," Duterte said.
"I do not want a quarrel, I do not want trouble. I respect your position, and you respect mine. But we will not go to war," he added.
Last week, Duterte compared Manila's victory in a United Nations-backed arbitral court that invalidated Beijing's sweeping claims over the resource-rich waters to a "piece of paper." This courted fresh criticism of his handling of the dispute with China.
Beijing has ignored the ruling and fortified its artificial islands over Philippine reefs. Recently, the lingering presence of Chinese ships put a fresh strain on the ties between the two nations.
While Duterte said there was nothing wrong with admitting being "inferior in terms of might and power," he maintained that he will not back out from China.
As of May 9, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said 287 Chinese militia ships were still "scattered" off various features of the Philippines' Kalayaan municipality in the Spratlys.
This story originally appeared on Reportr.world. Minor edits have been made by Esquiremag.ph editors.
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