MANILA – Manila cannot afford to go to war against Beijing to forcefully retake the Philippine territory it occupied in the South China Sea.
Thus, said President Rodrigo Duterte in his penultimate State of the Nation Address (SONA) said on Monday.
“China is claiming it, we are claiming it. China has the arms, we do not have it so it’s simple as that. They are in possession of the property… it’s akin to they are in possession, so what can we do? We have to go to war, and I cannot afford it. Maybe some other President can, but I cannot,” Duterte said.
Under his administration, Duterte assured that the government “works without fail” in protecting Manila’s rights in the region through diplomatic means, “neither beholden nor a pawn to anyone”.
“We broaden the boundaries of Philippine diplomacy. We build productive ties with everyone willing to engage us on the basis of equality and mutual respect, and we redefined our relations with our most important partners, placing the country in a far better position to advance our interest in an evolving regional order and emerging global problems,” he said.
On the other hand. he rejected plans to reestablish Washington’s military base in Subic Bay, noting the risk would put Manila in should a nuclear war breaks out.
“I have nothing against America, I have nothing against China. (But) just like Manila during the Second World War, during the retaking of the city, (it became) one of the most devastated cities in the world. Kaya kung maglagay lagay ka ng (That’s why if you put a) base at this time this will ensure, if war breaks out because there would be atomic arsenals brought in, this will ensure the extinction of the Filipino race,” he said.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana assured that no bases of American troops of any kind will be constructed in Subic Bay.
Tensions had been escalating between China and the US since the latter released its new policy in the South China Sea, deploring Beijing’s sweeping claims in the region.
The resource-rich region is contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, and China.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that Beijing’s nine-dash line, an invisible demarcation laying claim on almost the entire South China Sea, is illegal. (PNA) #DuterteSONA2020 #WeRiseAsOne
By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora, PNA