MANILA, Philippines – During a speech devoted largely to castigating the European Union, United States, and United Nations, President Rodrigo Duterte said he will likely be seen visiting China more often.
"You will see me more often in China," said Duterte on Thursday, September 22, during a speech at a new Misamis Oriental power plant.
The President also hinted that he will be heading to China soon. According to Rappler sources, Duterte is likely to visit China by the end of October.
Duterte affirmed that in his upcoming visit, he will demand that China respect the rights of Filipinos to fish in the West Philippine Sea.
"One of the things that I would demand if I go to the mainland China is: 'Give us back our fishing rights.' That's one. Ma-negosyo ‘tong pobre kong mga kababayan. (So our fellow Filipinos can make a living)," he said.
He also hinted that he may propose a joint venture between China and the Philippines involving gas resources in the disputed sea, repeating a plan he had mentioned during the campaign.
"Then, whatever gas, mayroon doon (there was) agreement between China and the Philippines during the time of [Gloria Arroyo]. It was supposed to be, actually it was just legalese, diplomatic really, towards the joint venture," he said.
Duterte was likely referring to the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU), which the Arroyo administration entered into with China as well as Vietnam. Under the JMSU, the 3 countries agreed, through their national oil corporations, to conduct joint explorations of the disputed South China Sea. (READ: Why China prefers Arroyo to Aquino)
Duterte is set to visit Vietnam this September.
In his China trip, Duterte said he would also bring up The Hague ruling on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), but not in an aggressive manner.
"Kung kami na lang nandoon (If we are the only ones there), I will present this problem, here is this piece of paper, our arbitral award, we do not go out of the 4 corners of this paper. We talk. Pero hindi 'yung magtatapang-tapangan tayo (But we won't be too aggressive)," he said.
Duterte said he wanted to preserve enough good will with China to allow for economic partnerships. One example of such a partnership would be the power plant he was visiting, which he said was partly funded by Chinese nationals.
"Negosyo na lang. Kita mo, tumulong sila gumawa ng power plant (Let's just do business. See, they helped build a power plant.) Imagine if we can get their help in the years to come," he said.
While saying he is eager to talk to China about issues of mutual interest, he said he is not depending on the United States, the Philippines' traditional ally, to put out their necks for the country.
"We cannot depend on anybody except us. I do not expect you, US, to die for us so we just have to navigate our way around," he said. – Rappler.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.