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PH vessels to stay put in WPS, Duterte tells China

May 14, 2021 - Friday 8:05 PM by PNA

Article Banner Image President Rodrigo Duterte (Presidential photo)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has told China that the Philippines will continue conducting maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) amid Beijing’s incursions into the disputed waters.

In his taped public address delivered Thursday night but televised Friday noon, Duterte put China on notice that Philippine vessels would stay put in WPS.

“I’d like to put notice on China. May dalawang barko ako diyan, Philippine government (The Philippine government has two ships there),” Duterte said. “Kaya ako, sabihin ko sa China ngayon (So, I am telling China now), I am not ready to withdraw [the Philippine vessels from WPS].”

On Wednesday, the National Task Force for WPS (NTF-WPS) said maritime exercises in WPS will continue upon Duterte’s directive.

BRP Malapascua (MRRV 4003), MCS 3001, and 3008 were deployed at the Kalayaan municipality in Palawan, while BRP Sindangan (MRRV 4407) and MCS 3005 are within the area of Bajo de Masinloc, the NTF-WPS said.

The Philippine vessels, the NTF-WPS said, are being complemented by the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) four high speed tactical watercraft, three police gunboats, and police fast boats to patrol the municipal waters and portions of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the disputed waters.

The Philippines’ heightened presence in WPS came following the “illegal” incursions of Chinese vessels into the country’s EEZ.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who attended the meeting with Duterte at Malacañan Palace, said the Philippine ships are conducting maritime patrols within Kalayaan Island Group and Mischief Reef.

Duterte said he has no plan to order the withdrawal of Philippine ships from WPS, even if Manila’s friendship with Beijing would be at stake.

Ngayon, hindi talaga ako aatras. Patayin mo man ako kung patayin mo ako, dito ako. Dito magtatapos ang ating pagkakaibigan (Now, I will really not order them to withdraw. You can kill me if you want but we will stay there. I don’t mind if it would cost our friendship),” he said.

Not going to war

Echoing Duterte’s stance, the NTF-WPS said the Philippines would continue to defend its sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction over WPS, and would not “yield an inch of our territory”.

Duterte said the Philippines would "not move an inch backward”.

He, however, clarified that he is not waging a war on China.

“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 said.

Duterte made the statement, as he maintained that the Philippines could not afford to launch a war against China.

“It’s not wrong to admit na inferior ka (that you are inferior) in terms of might and power. Hindi naman masamang magprangka ka na ito lang talaga ang kakayahan ko (It’s not wrong to be frank that this is just my limitation),” he said.

Duterte also reiterated that the Philippines continues to honor its debt of gratitude to China.

Sea ruling won’t solve dispute

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands ruled in favor of the Philippines’ petition when the court affirmed that China has no legal basis to assert its supposedly historic rights over nearly the entire WPS.

Despite the Philippines’ historic win, China has made a firm stance that it would not honor the 2016 arbitral ruling.

Thus, the sea ruling would not help resolve the sea dispute between Manila and Beijing, Duterte added.

Kung papel, papel lang. Hindi madala iyan (You won’t be able address the dispute through that paper),” he said. “It’s really a piece of paper. If you wave it in front of the face of the Chinese, sabihin niya (he will say), ‘We will throw it to the basket, to the trash can. We do not honor it. It’s yours. First and foremost, we were not a party to that case that you won.”

Manila, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), has filed a series of diplomatic protests against Beijing's incursions into WPS.

On Thursday, the DFA filed another diplomatic protest against the presence of at least 287 Chinese maritime militia vessels in the waters of Kalayaan, Palawan. Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos