President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday called on China to agree to find a common ground in resolving its territorial dispute with the Philippines regarding the South China Sea.
“They should also meet halfway. Don’t surround the area because I have soldiers there,” the Chief Executive said in his speech at the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban sortie held at the Batangas City Sports Coliseum.
“If any of my soldiers die there, that could precipitate trouble there,” he said.
Duterte, who set aside the United Nations-backed arbitral ruling against China in 2016 to deal with the sea dispute, made the remark after telling Beijing on 4 April to “lay off” Pag-asa Island, the largest in the Kalayaan Island Group or Spratlys occupied by Filipinos.
He warned China against “touching” Pag-asa Island following the surge near the area of vessels believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia.
The President, however, said he will still employ a “studied response” in dealing with the matter to avoid triggering a violent confrontation in the contested waterway as this will result in a “massacre.”
“Me fight with China? They will bomb us to high heavens, we have nothing to counter that,” said Duterte.
He expressed doubt that the United States, the Philippines’ lone military ally, would fully extend support as stated in the two countries’ Mutual Defense Treaty.
“Give me five countries who will help us. Would America risk a third world war just to defend us? Just to get Spratly?” he said.
Earlier, Malacañang said the President may raise with Chinese President Xi Jinping his country’s continuing activities in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea when he travels to Beijing next week to attend the Second Belt and Road Forum.