After maintaining close ties with neighbor China over the past years, President Duterte surprised everyone when he questioned its claim over the whole South China Sea (SCS).
This took place when Duterte gave a speech at the 25th International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo, Japan.
This was also the first time for Duterte to face up to China publicly concerning its claim over the disputed waters.
The unexpected statement from the President raised the hopes of many Filipinos who have long waited for Duterte to make a move against China’s aggressive actions in that part of SCS under our waters that we call the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Still, the President clarified that he still loves China and considered it an ally that has somehow helped the country. He mentioned that even if the SCS were at stress, the Philippines would remain a friend of China.
However, Duterte cautioned that as long as there are territorial claims that remain unresolved between China and other countries over the disputed waters, there would be a “flashpoint for trouble”.
Everyone is aware that China has built artificial islands on reefs found in Philippine waters and militarized it by building runways for jet fighters, weaponry, and quarters for their soldiers.
It has also been bullying our fishermen and driving them away from what they considered their traditional fishing grounds for several decades.
For the past years, China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been trying to come up with a code of conduct in the SCS to prevent these territorial claims from turning violent.
China claimed sovereignty over almost the entire SCS, thus raising a conflict with ASEAN members like the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Brunei.
Duterte noted that since there is no code of conduct, France, Britain, and America are testing the waters. Jokingly, he added that it was not to check the water temperature but as to who can fire the first shot.
The President was a bit too honest when he openly admitted having a tiny country with weak Marines that would all be wiped out in one or two military strikes if he sent them out to go beyond six kilometers.
Maybe Duterte was just being sincere. Still, no matter how puny our country is, the Chief Executive should not have announced publicly and informed everyone how weak his military is. This could give other countries the wrong idea.
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