MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte said he hopes China will "honor" its commitment to not build on Scarborough Shoal, the rocky sandbar off Zambales province that China occupied in 2012.
The statement comes after a command conference where Duterte was briefed on the situation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), part of his preparation for his trip to Vietnam where he will meet with world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping for the Asia Pacific Economic Summit.
It was a reiteration of a statement he made in Davao last October when he said he is holding on to China's promise it wouldn't build anything on Scarborough Shoal.
Duterte claimed China gave his government the assurance it "will not be building something in Scarborough Shoal."
"I wish he (President Xi Jinping) will honor it because it will change the entire geography. If war starts, I don't know what will be the next geographical division of Asia," Duterte said.
Renewed concerns are raised as China launched a massive dredger ship that can build artificial islands similar to what it had already built in the South China Sea.
International security observers fear that the "island-maker" could be deployed to construct facilities on Scarborough Shoal, which is widely believed to be a red line for the US.
Duterte spoke about his administration's friendship with China during the 67th anniversary of the Philippine Marines, the unit in the frontlines protecting Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
"Laro ito ng geopolitics (It's a game of geopolitics)," Duterte told the Marines.
Duterte hinted at another trip to China. "You will have to trust me. Pupunta ako doon (I'm going there) and I will assert something and I will try one day, we’ll put a stake on what we think is ours," said Duterte.