The Associated Press MANILA (AP) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Sunday that his militarily inferior country can’t stop China’s actions in contested waters, responding to a reported plan by Beijing to construct an environmental monitoring station in a disputed shoal off the northwestern Philippines.
Duterte, however, warned that he would invoke a July 12 arbitration ruling that invalidated China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea if the Chinese “start to tinker with the entitlement,” apparently meaning when Beijing starts to tap the offshore area’s resources.
“We cannot stop China from doing his thing, the Americans were not able to stop it,” Duterte said in a news conference at the airport in southern Davao city before flying to Myanmar.
“Sir, what will I do? Declare a war against China?” he asked, without saying who he was addressing his question to. “I can, but we’ll all lose our military and policemen tomorrow, and we are a destroyed nation.”
Duterte’s remarks differed slightly from those of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which said that it was trying to verify the news reports about China’s construction plans on Scarborough Shoal and that it would refrain from commenting while doing so.
In the past, the Philippine government routinely filed protests or expressed its concern whenever China took aggressive actions to assert its sovereignty in contested territories, but Duterte did not mention any planned protest.