Duterte to China: You can't avoid Hague ruling

WHAT NOW, CHINA? President Rodrigo Duterte addresses soldiers in a military camp in Tanay, Rizal, on August 24, 2016.

Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler

RIZAL, Philippines – China cannot continue to avoid an international arbitral tribunal's ruling favoring the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday, August 24.

Duterte made the statement while addressing soldiers at Camp General Mateo Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, his 15th visit to a military camp in little over a month.

"I hope China is dealing with us in good faith. But we are not insisting on the arbitral judgement....They better come up with what they want. Because whether we like it or not, that arbitral judgement will be insisted not only by the Philippines but by the whole countries here in Southeast Asia," the President said.

He introduced the topic while discussing the requirements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that he promised to fulfill.

Duterte, who said previously he would rather not "flaunt" the historic ruling to protect the Philippines' bilateral talks with China on the dispite, reminded the Asian giant that other countries are affected by the ruling.

"May tama lahat 'yan eh (All will be hit)," he said, naming Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia as among the countries who have claims over parts of the South China Sea.

The United States, he said, is also insisting on using the ruling to settle the dispute.

"Gagamitin tayo ng Amerika. [Sasabihin nila] 'Eh ikaw 'yung nanalo diyan (America will use us). [It will say] 'You won there, you insist on it,'" said Duterte.

No choice

The President warned that if the Philippines and China "cannot understand each other," he will have no choice but to ensure the country is ready to defend its sovereign rights.

"I'm afraid if we cannot understand each other, we have to pray for that. I guarantee to them kung kayo pumasok dito (if you enter here), it will be bloody. And we will not give it to them easily," he said.

This is Duterte's most provocative statement to China in his presidency.

He said the Philippine government would have to find "what way can we best defend our country."

Duterte said the AFP needs 20,000 additional soldiers but he can only commit 10,000 more this year and another 10,000 in 2017, as recommended by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

"It will be the bones of our soldiers, pati na 'yung sa akin (as well as mine). We will not allow any country to bamboozle us," he added.

China's move

The ball, he said, is in China's court.

He said the Chinese government has offered to help build drug rehabilitation centers in military camps, something Duterte is grateful for.

Duterte also said he has asked Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa to go to China to inspect "armaments against drugs."

But these promises of assistance will not erase the Hague ruling that stands between the Philippines and China, he said.

"We will not raise hell now about the judgement but there will come a time that they have to do some reckoning about this," he said.

Duterte's mention of the Southeast Asian countries involved in the dispute comes two weeks before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Laos which he will attend.

The President said he does not plan to raise the maritime dispute during the gathering unless another country brings it up. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.