MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte said he would stress that the Philippines is not giving up its claim to its territory in the Spratly Islands when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam this week.
Speaking at the 67th anniversary of the Philippine Marine Corps on Tuesday, Duterte expressed appreciation for the the assistance, including military aid, China and other countries had given towards defeating the extremist gunmen who had occupied Marawi City fo five months since May.
However, he said, this would not be enough to give up the Philippines’ claims to its territory in the South China Sea.
He recalled telling Xi: “Do not do … We will not give up our claims sa (to) Pag-asa pati ‘yung (and) the nearby islands that we have occupied already. Small islands.”
Xi, he said, replied: “We will not.”
“And with this assurance he gave to the Foreign Secretary na hindi niya galawin (he will not touch it) … he will not build something on the Scarborough Shoal,” he added.
At the same time, Duterte stressed that “geopolitics” precluded a more aggressive posture lest other claimants such as “Malaysia, I’m sure, and Indonesia, would also begin to push for what they think is their territory.”
“I hope you understand that because I cannot afford to go to war. I — you know, I know that it would end up in a massacre. I cannot start a — we do not — nuclear arms and everything. As a matter of fact, we are just bystanders,” he said.
Once at the APEC summit, he said, “It would be at that time that I’d be frank with China also. I know where she’s going, the direction …”
“I will assert something and that is — or we will try to one day really put a stake to what we think is ours,” he added.
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